Wheelchair basketball player David Durepos Canadian flagbearer at Parapan Ams

The man who will carry the Maple Leaf at the opening ceremonies of the Pan American Paralympic Games says keeping a narrow focus will be important for Canadian athletes hoping to win medals.

Wheelchair basketball player David Durepos gave the advice to the team after being named the Canadian flagbearer Wednesday for the opening ceremonies of the Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“You have to focus on the little things that got you here,” Durepos said during a telephone interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s the little things that are going to get you on the podium.

“If you think of winning a medal that’s a great goal. It’s not the same as your focus.”

The Fredericton native was announced as the flagbearer for Saturday’s opening ceremonies at a Canadian team pep rally and flag-raising ceremony at the Paralympic Village.

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“I’m pretty excited, honoured and humbled at the same time,” he said. “I’ve always been honoured and humbled to wear the Canadian jersey.

“Now to be the flagbearer, it’s quite special.”

Durepos has been on the national wheelchair basketball team since 1994 and is considered one of the world’s best outside shooters.

He has won two gold medals and a silver at the Paralympic Games. He also won a silver medal at the 2007 Parapan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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This year’s Parapan Am Games will begin Saturday and go to Nov. 20. Canada will sent a team of 121 athletes, 11 guides and 73 officials to compete in 11 of the 13 sports.

Durepos learned a lesson about focusing when the wheelchair basketball team lost to Australia in the gold medal game of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

“It sort of bit us in the butt,” said Durepos, who is married to Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball player Sabrina Pettinicchi. “Everyone was talking that if we won the gold it would be the first time a men’s team would have three-peated at the Paralympics.

“I think there was too much emphasis placed upon that. We fell a little bit short. That’s why I think it’s really important to narrow your focus down and just work on the little things.”

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Selection criteria for the flagbearer require the athlete exhibit a commitment to fair play; be respected as a role model by other athletes; maintain an exemplary standard of behaviour; and have made a contribution to Paralympic sport and the sporting community.

“David exemplifies both the excellence in athletic achievement and the leadership values that all Canadian team flagbearers share,” chef de mission Rob Needham said in a news release.

“We know that Team Canada members will be proud to enter the stadium behind David.”

The Parapan Ams are expected attract 1,500 athletes from 25 countries.

At the 2007 Parapans in Rio, Canada won 112 medal (49 gold, 37 silver, 26 bronze). That left Canada second in the country standings behind host Brazil.

Wheelchair basketball player Jen Krempien was the flagbearer for the opening ceremonies. Swimmer Benoit Huot, who won three gold and four silvers, carried the Maple Leaf at the closing ceremonies.

The Parapan Ams will serve as a direct qualifier for the London 2012 Paralympic Games in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

To book a ticket to London the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams need to finish in the top three in Guadalajara.

The men’s sitting volleyball team must win gold to qualify for London.

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Durepos said the basketball team heads into the Parapan Ams focused on securing a spot in London.

“We are definitely motivated,” he said. “When you are on top of the mountain, and you get knocked down a notch like it happened to us in Beijing, you want to get right back to where you belong.

“We have taken a new approach. We are not looking too far ahead, We are just taking the little steps we need to accomplish our goals.”

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