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The Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell Headshot

Canadians at Rio Showed Us the Best That We Can Be

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Sunset at Copacabana Beach. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

As the flame was extinguished at yesterday evening's closing ceremonies of the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, I reflected on Paralympians and Olympians. Some of the most powerful words in the English language came to mind: inspiration and spirit, dedication and sacrifice, pride.

Over the past month we regularly witnessed the unexpected. I will forever remember such moments as the proud entrance of Canada's flag bearers standing tall at the opening and closing ceremonies, the warm reception accorded to the Refugee Olympic Team, two runners helping each other to the finish line and the breaking of Olympic records by Paralympic athletes.

No matter the final medal tally, the 475 members of Team Canada -- including 190 from Ontario -- can be so very proud of their achievements. They demonstrated remarkable skill, drive, and perseverance. They captivated us with their teamwork and sense of fair play. They acted as ambassadors of their fellow Canadians with grace and integrity. It is no wonder then that they are held in high regard here at home and around the world.

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Brazilian Paralympic swimmer Clodoaldo Silva lights the flame during the 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony. (Photo: REUTERS/Pool)

We were mesmerized by Canadian women athletes, whose grit and determination heralded a newfound respect for women's competition. Implicitly, their achievements speak to the enduring goals of equality and inclusion. They provided compelling motivation for girls and young women to seek and realize their full potential in sport and more broadly in society.

And even for those who may not be ardent sports fans, there are observations and insights about this interdependent world in which we live. This year, as the world descended on Rio amid some scepticism that the games would be successful, we saw the renewed sense of kinship and common purpose that comes with major sporting events. We were reminded of our capacity to embrace cultural differences and one other's fundamental humanity.

I cannot think of a greater way to celebrate the achievements of Team Canada than by carrying this positive energy forward in our everyday lives.

We recognize the many people -- parents, friends, coaches and volunteers -- that contribute to the success of an athlete. Every Olympic and Paralympic story is written by a community's collective love and support. Sports make us feel as if we are a part of something greater than ourselves, which is precisely why they are such an important focal point for community spirit.

Our athletes have given us a profound gift. And as we say thank you and begin the countdown to the Winter Games in 2018, I cannot think of a greater way to celebrate the achievements of Team Canada than by carrying this positive energy forward in our everyday lives.

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