News

Parapan Am Games: Canada names Zak Madell closing ceremony flag-bearer

Zak Madell was chosen as Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony after leading his wheelchair rugby team to a gold medal at the Parapan American Games.

Wheelchair rugby star who led Canada to gold to carry flag at tonight's closing ceremony

Wheelchar rugby star Zak Madell, right, has been selected as Canada's flag-bearer for the Parapan Am Games closing ceremony on Saturday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Zak Madell was chosen as Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony after leading his wheelchair rugby team to a gold medal at the Parapan American Games.

And in the moments after he was handed the flag, Madell deflected the praise onto his teammates. The closing ceremony takes place at Nathan Phillips Square tonight.

The 21-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., scored 34 goals in Canada's thrilling 57-54 victory over arch-rival United States on Friday night, but Madell is an offensive target in a sport where players take on significantly different roles depending on their level of mobility.

"I get to go out and score the goals, and get the glory, but really I couldn't be doing it without my low-pointers clearing the path and just making my life easy for me," Madell said.

Rugby players are classified between 0.5 to 3.5. The higher the number, the better the mobility. Madell, who lost his legs and fingers to a staph infection when he was 10 years old, is a 3.5. The low-point players mainly run interference for the goal-scorers.

The Canadians' victory, in front of a full house at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., clinched them a spot in the Paralympics next summer in Rio.

Madell said Canada's chef de mission Elisabeth Walker-Young informed Madell of the flag-bearer honour in the dressing room after the game.

"It's been truly such an honour to be selected for this," he said, a couple of hours before the ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square. "I was just speechless, totally blindsided me, there are so many deserving athletes at these Games, and it's an honour to be there leading them into this next step, Rio 2016."

Walker-Young called Madell — who also led the Canadians in scoring at the 2012 London Paralympics, where they won silver — a phenom and rugby rock star.

"Despite having experience meteoric success at a very young age, he remains humble, down to earth, and dedicated to constantly raising the bar for himself and his teammates," Walker-Young said. "Audiences cheer for his intensity, his aggression, and competitors respect his sportsmanship and his unbridled love for the game."

Boccia player Marco Dispaltro carried Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.