Paralympian Cassidy takes aim at Beijing Games

Oakville’s Josh Cassidy has been named to the Canadian team that will compete at this year’s 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China. The Paralympic Games begin Sept. 6 with the athletics schedule kicking off Sept. 8 and concluding Sept. 17.

Cassidy will compete in the 800 metre, 1500m, and 5000m events.

Cassidy, a Paralympic racer, won two gold medals at the Canada Games in 2005 and currently holds the Canadian record for the 5km race. Among the world’s racers, he has been ranked in the top seven.

Head coach Bruce Pirnie sees great potential from the team. “Led by Chantal Petitclerc, arguably the world’s greatest wheelchair racer, the 2008 athletics Paralympic team is a strong blend of veteran athletes representing all disability groups. Twelve of the 26 athletes nominated by Athletics Canada have performances that rank them in the top 3 in the World for their event. Although we have fewer athletes than 4 years ago in Athens, we know that our core group remains very competitive.” Pirnie is confident the team’s experience will be a great asset, “The leadership of veterans such as Chantal Petitclerc, Diane Roy, Jason Dunkerley and many other s with Paralympic Games experience creates an atmosphere of excellence that makes us a contender every time we’re on the track or in the field.”

Chantal Petitclerc of MontrĂ©al will be making it her fifth Paralympic Games appearance looking to improve on her total of 16 medals. She is one of the world’s most decorated athletes holding two world records in the T54 wheelchair along with numerous Canadian records and titles.

The team will depend on a group of core veterans but it will also count some notable first-time Paralympians who should find themselves in the mix for a podium finish. Michelle Stilwell from Nanoose Bay, BC burst onto the scene in 2007 with four gold medals in the T52 category at the IWAS World Championships in Taiwan. She’s followed that up by setting two World records so far this season in the 100 and 200 metres.