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Canada's 253 medal hopefuls

01 Mar 06 23:57
Susan Nattrass takes aim during the Athens Olympics. 

Susan Nattrass takes aim during the Athens Olympics.

Olympic gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt, world champion diver Alexandre Despatie and veteran shooter Susan Nattrass are among those carrying Canada’s gold medal hopes to Melbourne.

Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC) has officially unveiled its 253-strong team, with designs on topping the 118 medals won in Manchester.

Shewfelt captured a gold medal in Men's Gymnastics at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and is also a two-time Commonwealth Games champion.

And Quebecois Despatie won a pair of gold medals at the world aquatic championships last summer in Montreal, following on from two golds and a bronze at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and making him the man to beat in the Diving pool.

“We are delighted to be able to send such a great team down to Melbourne,” Claude Bennett, President of CGC, said. “Canada is always a great competitor at the Games because our athletes have made sacrifices and dedicated years to their sport. We are looking forward to great performances!”

Canada’s Synchronised Swimming team will have a lot to live up to – with Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon spearheading the effort to ensure their undefeated streak continues, while the return of Rhythmic Gymnastics to Games competition is also expected to give the team’s chances a boost.

Other Canadian medal hopefuls include swimmer Brittany Reimer, a double medallist at the world aquatic championships, Athens silver medallist Mountain Biker Marie-Helene Premont, high jumper Mark Boswell, a former world bronze medallist, and veteran shooter Susan Nattrass.

Nattrass is one of the most experienced members of the team. She has been breaking ground in the shooting competition since being the first and only woman to compete in the Trap competition during the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games – a feat she repeated in the Shotgun event at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

Her efforts eventually led to the introduction of a separate Women’s Trap and Skeet competition at the Sydney Olympics – events for which she picked up four medals during the Manchester Games in 2002.

Another groundbreaker on the team is wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc, whose win in the 800m Elite Athletes with a Disability (EAD) event in Manchester marked the first gold in the fully integrated EAD competition.

Although Canada is missing a number of high profile athletes, including top Squash player Jonathan Power, and the timing of the Games has meant they will not be represented in Basketball, CGC chief Thomas Jones said the team would still be one of the strongest in Melbourne.

“We'd love to have all of our athletes there but I choose to focus on the athletes that are there,” he said. “Our goal is to make their experience and help them make their performance as successful as humanly possible."

The Shooting program at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games will take place across three venues – the Melbourne Gun Club, the Wellsford Rifle Range and the Melbourne International Shooting Club – from 17 – 25 March.

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