Opening Ceremony ignites the start of the 2015 Parapan American Games

By Annemarie Blanco | Aug. 07, 2015, 9:09 p.m. (ET)
 
Wheelchair racer Chantal Peticlerc, Canada's most decorated Paralympian, lights the torch to open the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

TORONTO, Canada - Flag bearer Curtis Lovejoy led more than 200 Team USA athletes through the CIBC Athletics Stadium on Friday evening to open the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. The stadium, filled with a cheering crowd of nearly 5,000, will also house the Games’ track & field competitions.

Lovejoy, a five-time Paralympian, was selected by a group of representatives of various sports from across the U.S. to serve as flag bearer for the fifth Parapan American Games.

“It feels great being around athletes from all around the world,” Lovejoy said. “Every time I come it gets bigger and bigger, and by bigger I mean more people. That’s humanity, it brings everyone together.”

The Opening Ceremony included music, song, dance, performance, scenic projections and imagery celebrating the theme of unity through diversity.

"I thought it was a lot of fun. I really liked the message of how everyone can overcome their disabilities," said track & field athlete Suzanne Arenal. "It was a huge honor to be a part of Team USA, representing where we all came from and seeing our hard work pay off." 

London 2012 judo bronze medalist Dartanyon Crockett said he enjoyed celebrating with athletes from across the Americas.

“This was my first Opening Ceremony for a Parapan Am Games,” Crockett said. “It’s great to be around all of the other countries and athletes, who are striving for the same goals. It’s a really fun way to start the Games.”

“Being a part of the U.S delegation is an exciting privilege,” said U.S. wheelchair rugby athlete Jason Regier. “To be able to walk into the stadium representing your country, feel the excitement of the crowd and see the lighting of the cauldron is an awesome way to kick off the games.”

Split into two, the Parapan Am flames visited 12 communities during the torch relay, carried by more than 250 flag bearers. The five-day journey culminated with the torch lighting at the Opening Ceremony by five-time Canadian Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc.

The largest Parapan American Games to date, competitions begin on August 8 and end on August 15. More than 1,600 athletes representing 28 countries will compete in 15 sports throughout the eight days of competition.

A total of 240 athletes will represent the 2015 U.S. Parapan American Team including 97 Paralympians, one Olympian and four track and field guides. Brazilian 1984 Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Team Head Coach Joaquim Cruz will serve as a guide runner.

Team USA will compete in a multitude of sports on the first day of competition including boccia, road cycling, goalball, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

For more information and photos of Team USA at the 2015 Parapan American Games, visit TeamUSA.org/ParapanAm and follow @USParalympics on Twitter.