Labonté named flag bearer for Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games opening ceremony

VANCOUVER, March 8 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) today announced that sledge hockey captain Jean Labonté has been selected as flag bearer for Canada at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

"Jean has demonstrated throughout his career the determination, athletic excellence, and strong character that embodies the Paralympic spirit," said Blair McIntosh, chef de mission, Team Canada. "Jean is a most deserving athlete to not only captain our sledge hockey team but to also lead our entire Canadian delegation into B.C. Place for the first Paralympic Winter Games on home soil."

The native of Gatineau, Québec has competed in three previous Paralympic Winter Games, earning a gold medal in 2006 and silver in 1998. Labonté is one of the most decorated and admired athletes in the sport, having played in five International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Sledge Hockey World Championships, taking the gold medal in 2000 and 2008, and bronze in 1996 and 2009.

The veteran defenceman demonstrates great leadership both on and off the ice. Labonté is an outstanding ambassador for sledge hockey and for the Paralympic movement. He has worked tirelessly to promote Paralympic sport across Canada, educating Canadians about sport for athletes with a disability, and encouraging young and old to participate and take advantage of sporting and volunteering opportunities in their communities.

"When the eyes of the world focus on B.C. Place for the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games - the first to be hosted in Canada, they will witness an historic moment in Canadian sport," said Carla Qualtrough, president, CPC. "The profile of Paralympic sport has reached new heights and our flag bearer, Jean Labonté, has helped lead the way. It is a tremendous honour to carry the flag for your country. Jean, like all of our Paralympic athletes, is about to make Canada very proud."

PAST FLAG BEARERS

    Games                       Opening Flag Bearer  Closing Flag Bearer

    2006 - Turin, Italy         Todd Nicholson       Colette Bourgonje
                                (Sledge hockey)      (Para-Nordic)

    2002 - Salt Lake City, USA  Mark Ludbrook        Brian and Robin McKeever
                                (Para-Alpine)        (Para-Nordic)

    1998 - Nagano, Japan        Bill Harriott        Colette Bourgonje
                                (Para-Alpine)        (Para-Nordic)

    1994 - Lillehammer, Norway  Lou Mulvihill        Lana Spreeman
                                (Sledge Hockey)      (Para-Alpine)

    1992 - Tignes-Albertville,  Phil Chew
     France                     (Para-Alpine)

The Opening Ceremony of the 10th Paralympic Winter Games is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT on Friday, March 12, 2010 at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

About the Canadian Paralympic Committee

The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is a non-profit, private organisation with 43 member sports organisations dedicated to strengthening the Paralympic Movement. The CPC is responsible for creating an optimal high-performance environment for the Canadian Paralympic athletes to win at Paralympic and ParaPanAmerican Games. By supporting Canadian Paralympic athletes and promoting their success, the CPC inspires all Canadians with a physical disability to get involved in sport through programs delivered by its member organisations. For more information, visit www.paralympic.ca.

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For further information: Michael Cvitkovic, ABC, Press Chief, Canadian Paralympic Committee, mcvitkovic@tenniscanada.com, Phone: (604) 388-8420; Anna Parisi, Chief of Communications, Canadian Paralympic Committee, aparisi@paralympic.ca, (604) 828-2875; Marie-Helene Cayer, Media Relations (French Media), Canadian Paralympic Committee, mcayer@paralympic.ca, (778) 834-0337