As the Summer Olympics came to a close this weekend, there is still plenty to cheer for as Paralympians from around the world gear up for their own games, which kick off Aug. 24. 4,237 disabled athletes representing 164 countries and regions will put their training to the test in 22 events.
This year, Calgarians can cheer for the home team as a handful of athletes from the city are competing in various sports. Here is a look at who they are:
Morgan Bird, 27 – Para Swimming
Bird was born with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that impact one’s posture, balance and ability to move. She started swimming at the age of 11 to try and help with her cerebral palsy and won her first international medal in 2013 at IPC World Championships, after having two second-place finishes. Bird went on to win two gold and a silver in the 2015 Parapan American Games. Competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Bird placed fifth in three competitions.
Jennifer Brown, 41 – Para Athletics
Brown first got into track and field in high school where she competed in the hammer throw. In 2006, Brown was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Wanting to build her strength, she worked hard to return to throwing. In the 2015 Parapan American Games, she came 1st in shotput and 2nd in discus. Brown went on to compete in 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro placing 7th in discus, returning home with another podium finish from the 2019 Parapan American Games where she took the top spot.
Stefan Daniel, 24 – Para Triathlon
Daniel was born with bilateral radial club hands, an anomaly where an individual’s radius bone in the arm is either missing or underdeveloped, which affects his right arm significantly more. At a young age, Daniel started running races with his parents and ended up joining the University of Calgary Athletic Club. Daniel only started his para-triathlon career in 2013, when he was 16 years old, after winning national titles in high school cross-country and gaining international experience in para swimming. At the Para Triathlon Worlds, in 2013 and 2014, Daniel won a bronze and silver medal. Since then, Daniel has gone on to have multiple first-place finishes on the world stage, bringing home silver from the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Chad Jassman, 37 – Wheelchair Basketball
Jassman always had a love for sports growing up. After breaking his back in a car accident in 2004, he pursued that love and took up wheelchair basketball. Jassman did not make the national team until 2009, getting cut the previous two years. He went on to help the national team win bronze in 2011 at the Parapan American Games. Jassman and his team came home with another medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London where they won gold. Jassman has also played wheelchair basketball professionally in Germany.
Kate O’Brien, 33 – Para Cycling
Having once competed as a bobsledder at the 2013 world championships — but missed a shot at the Winter Olympics after she tore her hamstring — O’Brien is a jack of all trades when it comes to sports. Switching to summer games, she became a track cyclist, winning two medals in 2015 at the Pan American Games and becoming a member of the Rio 2016 Olympic team. In 2017 O’Brien was in a track cycling crash that left her in a coma and suffering a major head injury. She started experiencing seizures, which led to an epilepsy diagnosis. Determined to keep going, O’Brien started para track cycling, placing 1st in the World Para Cycling Track Championships in 2020.
Jennifer Oakes, 23 – Sitting Volleyball
Oakes grew up very athletic. She loved the water and played soccer and volleyball for both her high school and at the club level but after a boating accident in the summer of 2015, Oakes lost her right leg. Not long after, Oakes started playing for the Candian sitting volleyball team, which made history at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, marking the first time the Canadian team competed at the Paralympics level. In 2020 she was named “Best Server” at the World ParaVolley final Paralympic where she and her team won gold and secured their spot for Tokyo.
Find profiles of Calgarians who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics here.