Aurelie Rivard won three gold medals at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016 and six golds at the Toronto Parapan Am Games in 2015. She will be competing at the Para-swimming Canadian Open at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre starting tonight. The event was organized at the last minute when earthquakes in Mexico City force the postponement of the 2017 Para-swimming World Championships. (Photo courtesy Swimming Canada)
Monday, October 2 - 2017
Elaine Smith

When the recent earthquake in Mexico City forced postponement of the 2017 Para Swimming World Championships, and Swim Canada, with an assist from the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, stepped into the breach to provide an alternative competition.

The Para Swimming Canadian Open runs until Wednesday at the TPASC. Swimmers from Team Canada and Team Australia will take part, with about 40 swimmers competing. Four events will be held nightly beginning at 6 p.m. The competition is open to the public and is free of charge.

Despite the postponement of the Worlds, officials from Swimming Canada were determined to keep the para swimmers on track, and they turned to the TPASC for assistance. The facility was an obvious choice for an elite competition; not only is it a designated high-performance sport centre, but it recently hosted the Invictus Games. As a result, the the special equipment needed for a para swim meet is already in place.

“Our athletes needed this meet to happen,” said Ahmed El-Awadi, the chief executive officer of Swimming Canada, “and everyone at TPASC has stepped up, including user groups who have given up their pool times and offered volunteers. They have all been working tirelessly to prepare a meet on short notice.”

This alternative meet is crucial to the para swimmers for two reasons: continued funding and future opportunities. The swimmers need a sanctioned meet that allows them to achieve qualifying times by early October in order for continuation of their federal funding. In addition, team selections for the 2018 Commonwealth Games begin shortly, and the swimmers, whose performances are peaking, were counting on their World Championship times to better their chances.

Andrew Arifuzzaman, UTSC’s chief administrative officer, credits the vision of U of T Scarborough students for making the Para Swimming Canadian Open possible.

“When the students ran a referendum about supporting a swimming facility, they were determined to have a fully accessible facility, designed for elite, high-performance athletes, among others,” Arifuzzaman said. “With the TPASC’s cutting-edge scoring and timing systems it is easy to bring an international event here on short notice.

“TPASC is one of U of T Scarborough’s great student legacies.”