Team USA welcomed to Parapan American Games village

By Courtney Patterson | Aug. 05, 2015, 10:43 p.m. (ET)

Members of Team USA at the CIBC Parapan Am Athlete Village Plaza

TORONTO – Members of the 2015 U.S. Parapan American Team gathered in the CIBC Parapan Am Athlete Village Plaza Wednesday afternoon for a team welcome ceremony. Toronto 2015 volunteers and staff lined the entrance, cheering as the athletes filed into the plaza under the Toronto skyline.

“As I was walking into the welcome ceremony, I could really feel the positive energy from the volunteers,” said USA women’s goalball player Lisa Czechowski. “Everyone is really excited to have the Parapan Am Games here. I think Toronto’s done a really nice job.”

Local students from schools in the greater Toronto area welcomed the team with a program of music and dance. Fiddlers from the Métis Nation of Ontario and drummers from the Drum Café were also part of the welcome ceremony’s program. After members of the Ontario Provincial Police raised the U.S. flag as the national anthem played, Julie O’Neil, Chef de Mission for team USA, exchanged gifts with Saad Rafi, chief executive officer of Toronto 2015.

The ceremony concluded with an appearance from the Toronto 2015 mascot, PACHI, a porcupine with 41 brightly colored quills representing the 41 countries participating in the 2015 Parapan American Games. Welcome ceremonies will continue in the Athletes’ Village Plaza through tomorrow, August 6, at 7:00 p.m. EST as teams continue to arrive.

Jennifer Chew, wheelchair basketball, is enjoying the downtime before competition starts on Sunday. “I am enjoying not having to cook and clean, work and commute. Just enjoying some downtime and focusing on [basketball] and hanging out with my team and having a good time.”

Chew is pleased with the athletes’ village in Toronto. “The village is great. I like how it’s got a metropolitan feel. The dining hall is awesome. The food is a nice preview for when we get to Rio and the options are expanded,” she said.

Jackson McCabe, 7-a-side soccer, also raved about the village’s appearance and amenities. “The village is beautiful. It’s clean and very open. They have a game room with basketball and foosball. There’s an air hockey table.”

The athletes are anxious to start competition now that everyone has arrived. “I’m most looking forward to competing and wearing the USA colors and the U.S. soccer jersey,” said McCabe.

“I’m most excited about racing with my team,” said swimmer Roderick Sewell. “We’ve all prepared well to get ready for Parapan Ams and I’m curious to see how we’re going to do and how well the turnout with be.”

In addition to meeting athletes on the field of play, soccer player Adam Ballou is enjoying getting to know his competition in the village, before competition starts. “One of the special things about sport is being able to meet people from different countries and I’m studying Spanish so there are some people all over Latin America who I’ve been able to communicate with,” he said.

The CIBC Parapan Am Athletes’ Village will host 3,200 athletes and team officials over the next 10 days. The village is located on an 80-acre site, next to the Don River in Toronto’s waterfront district. It offers access to a 82,000-square-foot YMCA, fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, 24-hour dining hall, café and general store. The space will be used as a new waterfront community with a YMCA, Aboriginal community health center and student residence for neighboring George Brown College after the Games conclude on August 15.

For more information on athletes schedules and more, visit