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Canada aims for eighth-place gold-medal count at London Paralympics

(Xinhua)

08:32, August 29, 2012

OTTAWA, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Canada has aimed to finish among the top eight at the up-coming Paralympic Games in London.

At Beijing, Canada placed seventh with 50 medals, of which 19 are gold.

The country's best Paralympic performance to date was in Vancouver two years ago during the Winter Games when Canada finished the top three with 10 gold medals.

To reach its eighth-place goal at the London Paralympics that open on Wednesday, Canada is counting on a group of elite Paralympians spearheaded by veteran wheelchair rugby player Garrett Hickling.

Hickling, a three-time Paralympic medallist, will carry Canada's flag at the opening ceremony.

The 41-year Ontario resident has competed in every Paralympics since wheelchair rugby was introduced at the Atlanta Games in 1996 when he won his first silver medal. He took home silver at the 2004 Games in Athens and a bronze medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Hickling will go for gold this year as Canada's 145-athlete team compete in 15 of the 20 sports over 11 days at the Paralympic Games.

There are also high hopes for Summer Mortimer, a 19-year-old swimmer from Ontario, who holds world records in five freestyle and backstroke swimming events. And two Canadian Paralympians are being compared to two of the stars from the London 2012 Olympics.

Quebec-born Benoit Huot, 28, holds 16 Paralympic swimming medals, including eight gold, and is six medals away from reaching 27-year-old Michael Phelps' record Olympic haul from the pool.

Meanwhile the Toronto Star daily newspaper recently dubbed Michelle Stilwell the "Usain Bolt of wheelchair racing."

A member of the women's wheelchair basketball team that won gold at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, the 38-year-old Winnipeg native switched sports and won the 100 and 200-meter sprints in record times - a feat Bolt achieved at the Olympics.

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