Athlete voices to resonate through PASO

Toronto, ON, March 14, 2012

In her nearly two decades of elite competition, Alexandra Orlando never earned an Olympic medal, but the 25 -year-old former rhythmic gymnast from Toronto did earn the respect and confidence of the international sport community. She also earned the pride and admiration of a country that gave her the chance to live, train and compete like a champion.

Orlando became the first-ever elected president of the Pan American Sports Organization’s (PASO) Athletes’ Commission last week during a historic announcement in international sport.

“It was really a defining moment,” said Orlando, commending PASO for embracing athlete advocacy in such a big way. “It’s a huge responsibility to represent this country in any capacity and this way will have such a lasting impact on the actual sport community — not just Canadian athletes, but international athletes as well.”

Among Orlando’s incredible international accolades as an athlete are eight Pan American Games medals. She was Canada’s flag bearer at the Closing Ceremonies of the Rio 2007 Pan Am Games after winning three gold medals there. Her patriotism, she says, is an undeniable part of her character. The chance to take on this responsibility after nearly two decades of steadfast dedication to athletic competition and Canadian pride is a testament to the value of a strong, important voice for athletes.

“It almost felt like I was on top of the podium again – for Canada. It’s so great to have a Canadian in this position, I think that means the most to me,” she said about the tremendous honour, which makes her one of three women that sit on PASO’s executive board.

“We are a country that really does value our athletes’ voice. This is something we do really well. We are really up there leading the way, not just for women in sport but for athletes to be heard.”

Orlando says she admires this characteristic in Canada’s identity on the international sporting stage. The chance to not just represent it proudly but also leave its mark on the growth of international sport is an opportunity for Canada to truly be a top nation for leading change.

“At the end of the day, that’s what sports is all about – making the sport community a better place.” Canadian Olympic Committee Chief Sport Officer Caroline Assalian said in a statement that Orlando is indeed the right woman to help make this impact on the sporting world for Canada.

“She will succeed in this immense responsibility,” said Assalian. “(She will) seize this unique opportunity to affect positive change.”

Orlando also sits on the Athlete Advisory Council for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. Her new role with PASO, she says, is a perfect opportunity to have international athletes working together – looking at the bigger picture to ensure Toronto 2015 Games are better than ever.

Orlando has an earned reputation as a dedicated advocate for athletes, representing them on Gymnastics Canada’s Board of Directors and later becoming a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athlete Commission and Vice President of AthletesCAN, an advocacy group for to improve athlete performance in Canada.

“One of my goals is to inspire as many people as I can throughout my life,” said Orlando. “It’s so important to know that you can give back.”