5 N.B. athletes heading to Beijing Games

Five New Brunswick athletes will be suiting up to take part in the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Five New Brunswick athletes will be suiting up to take part in the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The New Brunswick competitors who will go to China with Team Canada were announced at the province's Sports Hall of Fame in Fredericton on Tuesday.

"I think that they're not only representing Canada but they're also representing New Brunswick and it's just where we're from and it's really fun," said nine-year-old Taylor Smith, who attended the announcement to cheer on the athletes. "I feel really good for them."

Team Canada will include five New Brunswick athletes, two coaches, one official and three mission staff, along with one Olympic Youth Academy participant and one communications officer.

Married couple Dave Durepos and Sabrina Pettinicchi will be heading to the Games to compete in wheelchair basketball.

It is Pettinicchi's fourth Olympics and she said she hopes to bring home a gold medal for the third time.

"Having that medal put around your neck, and feeling the weight of it, and your entire career basically flash before your eyes and to share that with family and friends and everyone around you is an unbeatable feeling," said Pettinicchi, who also brought home a bronze medal from the Athens Games.

Durepos, of Fredericton, said the men's team is also hoping to break a record this year by winning the gold medal for the third time in a row.

"People can look at us years down the road and say you know that was the best team ever that went through the worlds, through the world at the Paralympic level," he said.

Durepos has won two Paralympic gold medals since he joined the national team in 1994.

Monica Hitchcock of Saint John, a former captain of the Team Canada volleyball team, said the athletes have a lot of pressure on them right now.

"I know what they're going through, emotionally, mentally, physically, you're hoping you're not going to get injured at this time," said Hitchcock, who isn't competing at the Beijing Games.

Fredericton rower Jane Rumball, former major league pitcher Rheal Cormier, who lives in Moncton, and cyclist Catharine Pendrel, who was born in Harvey Station, will also be competing in the Games.

"What's great is to see athletes from New Brunswick reaching their potential — reaching the Olympics," said Evan MacInnis, spokesman for the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic. "To see them make it in their sport is so great."

The 2008 Olympics begin on Aug. 8 and the Paralympics starting on Sept. 6.