Wednesday, April 24, 2013

OTTAWA, April 24, 2013 - The Canadian Paralympic Committee is proud to announce that Karen O’Neill will lead the organization as Chief Executive Officer effective June 3, 2013.

A highly-respected senior executive in Canada’s sports community, O’Neill has extensive experience in multiple leadership roles. Currently CEO of Field Hockey Canada - a position she has held since 2009 - O’Neill was Chief Operating Officer from 2004 to 2009 of the Rick Hansen Foundation, where she oversaw a period of rapid growth and innovation. As CEO of Commonwealth Games Canada from 1997 to 2004, O’Neill led Games strategy and sport technical for the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur and the 2002 Games in Manchester, along with the International Development through Sport program.

O’Neill also worked as Director General of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association from 1989 to 1992, was Chef de Mission for the Atlanta 1996 Canadian Paralympic Team and is a founding member of the Sport Matters Group. Originally from Halifax, N.S., she holds a master’s degree in education from McGill University and a bachelor of arts in psychology from Concordia University.

“I am thrilled that Karen O’Neill has accepted the challenge of guiding Canada to become the world’s leading Paralympic nation,” said David Legg, President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. “She has the requisite passion, knowledge and emotional intelligence that will enable us to take that important next step. Her strong leadership skills, strategic thinking and reputation within the Canadian sport system will propel the Canadian Paralympic Committee in to a new and exciting era. Karen is a great champion of parasport and an outstanding choice to build on the success of the CPC.”

The Canadian Paralympic Committee is at an exciting point in its 35-year history. The success of Canada’s Paralympic Team and the extraordinary support of Canadians at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games set the stage for the London 2012 Paralympic Summer Games, marking a new era in Paralympic competition and visibility. O’Neill will continue to build on this legacy while working closely with the Canadian sport community towards podium performances at upcoming Games in Sochi, Toronto, Rio and beyond.

“Canadian Paralympic athletes are fierce competitors who have earned the reputation of being among the best in the world,” said O’Neill. “Canada has a strong reputation domestically and internationally, both on and off the field for performance and leadership, and we look forward to continuing this rich tradition. The CPC will continue to use every resource it has to propel Canada forward and work closely with our community partners. We will continue to work on building a more robust parasport system and the long-term athlete pathway, since this will provide our success in the future. Our actions must be bold and ambitious in the quest to become podium contenders.”

The upcoming Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will take place from March 7 to 16 and will include five sports: para-alpine skiing (including the inclusion for the first time of para-snowboard), biathlon, para-Nordic skiing, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. Canada’s performance goal for Sochi is to place in the top three nations in the gold medal count. O’Neill will work closely with sport partners such as Sport Canada, Own the Podium and sport governing bodies.

The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), applauded O’Neill’s appointment.

“Our Government applauds the appointment of Karen O’Neill as CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC). Her long history and proven leadership in all aspects of Canadian and international sport, as well as her first-hand knowledge of parasport make her well qualified to guide the CPC in its efforts to grow the Paralympic movement in Canada.”

Anne Merklinger, Chief Executive Officer of Own the Podium, added: “Karen is an extraordinary Canadian talent who is a natural choice to ensure Canada’s high-performance Paralympic community remains focused on excellence and winning medals. I look forward to working together with Karen and her team at the Canadian Paralympic Committee on our joint mission of positioning Canada as a world-leader in Paralympic sport.”

Canadian hero Rick Hansen, known internationally for the Man in Motion World Tour, and now president and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, is thrilled with O’Neill’s appointment.

“Karen’s exceptional leadership will ensure the Canadian Paralympic Committee continues to develop as an organization supporting athletes with disabilities, headed by someone who understands both the needs and interests of the sporting organization and the athletes themselves,” said Hansen. “Karen’s skills will be vital in the continuing movement towards building an accessible and inclusive Canada that supports athletes with disabilities as equals. On behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation, we are thrilled to see Karen join the CPC and continue to be part of our 25-year journey to create an accessible and inclusive world. We wish Karen every success in her new position.”

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