Victoria's husband and wife team John McRoberts and Jackie Gay are among the six athletes named to the Sail Canada team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in September. The veteran team, led by Beijing 2008 Paralympic gold medalist and Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Paul Tingley, has a strong track record of medal performances. Tingley and his Sonar crew, Scott Lutes and Logan Campbell, won gold at the 2016 Miami World Cup in January.
McRoberts and Gay (2-person keelboat, SKUD) also secured podium finishes this year, including a bronze medal at an international sailing event in Italy this spring. McRoberts is a Beijing 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist and Atlanta 1996 silver medallist, while Gay will compete in Rio at her first Paralympic Games.
Bruce Millar, who competed at the London 2012 and Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, is set to sail solo in the highly competitive 2.4mR fleet.
"Congratulations to all nominated sailors as you set sail for the podium in Rio," said Team Canada Chef de Mission Chantal Petitclerc. "John and Paul both came very close to the podium in their respective events in London and I'm sure they are going into Rio extremely driven and focused. Their experience should be very beneficial to their crews."
Team Canada has a rich history of excellence in sailing at the Paralympic Games. Canadian sailors have won one gold medal, one silver and two bronze in their last five Paralympic Games appearances.
"The Canadian Sailing Team is loaded with veteran performers and are set to take on the world," said High Performance Director and Head Coach Ken Dool. "All three teams have been demonstrating their brilliance over the past four years in preparation for the big show in Rio. Final preparations are taking place on their respective home waters and the Canadian squad is looking forward to representing their country proudly in September."
McRoberts was left a quadriplegic with limited arm movement at age 18 after diving into shallow water in Lake Erie. He learned to sail as a child, but his real passion was soccer, prior to his injury in 1981. He had sailed as a teenager and says he felt “like a duck out of water’’ when he moved to Victoria at age 30. Coming from a sporting family, McRoberts was always looking for a place he could shine, competing as a road racer and in wheelchair rugby before finding sailing again in the 1990s.
“Disabled sailing was in its early days then,” he says. “We have come so far, from strapping ourselves in any old tub to the bespoke high-performance boats we sail today. It's amazing to be a part of this story and we're nowhere near finished yet. What I love most about sailing is that out there I am a racer, the same as anyone else. With the right equipment anything is possible.”
McRoberts and Gay were both honoured as 2013 Sail Canada Team of the Year.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games take place September 7 to 18. Sailors will hit the water at Marina da Gloria on Sept. 12 and will race through to Sept. 17.
Sail Canada Team:
2.4mR (one-person keelboat)
Bruce Millar, Victoria, B.C.*
SKUD (two-person keelboat)
Jackie Gay, Victoria, B.C.
John McRoberts, Victoria, B.C.*
Sonar (three-person keelboat)
Logan Campbell, Saskatoon, Sask.*
Scott Lutes, Montreal, Que.*
Paul Tingley, Halifax, N.S.*
*Denotes athletes with previous Paralympic Games experience
The nominated team will be supported by the following coaching staff in preparation for Rio: Head coach Ken Dool (Kingston, Ont.), coach Erik Stibbe (Vancouver, B.C.) and coach Steve McBride (Victoria, B.C.).