Paralympic Wheelchair basketball player Ross MacDonald, with dystonia, carries Paralympic Torch

By Doug Ward, Vancouver SunMarch 11, 2010

'Spark becomes flame': The torch makes its entrance into            Vancouver. Twenty-two carriers make the circuit around Riley Park

The Paralympic Torch is passed on as it is carried around Riley Park, close to venues for the Games.

The flame of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games torch relay arrived in Vancouver Wednesday, illuminating the value of the coming competition for disabled athletes and their loved ones.

The torch was escorted to Riley Park by elders of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from North Vancouver, where it had been lit earlier in the day.

Paralympic Games ambassador and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan told the crowd of about 150 people that the Paralympics are proof that Canada has "done so much for inclusion and access."

He said Vancouver "is the most accessible city in the world."

Shortly after Sullivan's welcoming remarks, 22 torchbearers carried the flame around a 400-metre circuit in a park behind the Riley Park Community Centre.

The motto of the 10-day Paralympic relay is "spark becomes flame" -- an apt phrase given the inspiration the torchbearers drew from the torch.

Wheelchair basketball player Ross MacDonald was clearly moved by his lap around the field.

"I get nervous for competition but I think I was more nervous carrying the torch," he said later.

MacDonald, 32, said he believes the torch experience will inspire him to train harder to get onto the national wheelchair basketball team for the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.

MacDonald turned to disabled sports shortly after he was diagnosed at age eight with dystonia, a movement disorder characterized by sustained muscle contractions.

MacDonald, who also played on the Canadian wheelchair soccer team at the 2007 Pan American Games, said the Paralympics are a "huge opportunity to promote what athletes with disabilities can do ...."

"And one indication of how well it is working is that you can't get tickets to any Canada sledge hockey game. And I think it's going to get better and better."

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Last update: Jan 2016