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City bids athletes good luck at Games

Members from the Canadian Paralympic men's rugby team and the Olympic men's table tennis team gathered at the Richmond oval Tuesday afternoon for the "Oval Trained, London Bound Olympic Athlete" send-off.

Members from the Canadian Paralympic men's rugby team and the Olympic men's table tennis team gathered at the Richmond oval Tuesday afternoon for the "Oval Trained, London Bound Olympic Athlete" send-off.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie and the new British Consul General, Rupert Potter, were present to wish them good luck in the Games.

Fresh off a rugby training session, Ian Chan, Trevor Hirschfield, Fabien Lavoie and Travis Murao expressed their excitement for London.

"Of course, we're excited," said Murao of Richmond. "But it could be anyone's game (wheelchair rugby.) It used to be only between a few countries like Canada, the U.S., Australia, but now the field has really expanded."

The four players train regularly at the oval.

"It is an amazing facility to be able to train in," said fellow Richmondite, Chan. "And it's super convenient. (Three of the four live across the street)."

Before London, the team heads to Montreal to train for 10 days. From there, equipped with their pre-game routine, the team sets out for London a few days prior to the opening ceremonies to get properly acclimatized.

The table tennis team, however, still has one more tournament to go before the Games. The oval will be hosting the 2012 Butterfly Canadian Senior and Junior Table Tennis Championship from July 19-26.

"It's great that the Canadian Championships are once again in my hometown of Richmond," said athlete Andre Ho. "To be honest, I hadn't felt like an Olympic athlete, but being here in the oval, I feel like an Olympian just standing here."

Ho and other team members Wang Zhen from Ontario and Quebecker Pierre-Luc Hinse will battle it out for Canadian Champion before joining forces at the Games.

The Olympic oval will also be screening CTV's coverage of the 2012 Games on their outdoor TVs for the public to watch at any time, according to the oval's program manager Aran Kay.

Brodie and other council members signed good luck posters of the athletes, which will hang in the oval's lobby for the public to sign and to show their support until July 24. Then, they'll be sent to the competing athletes in London.

yrobertson@richmond-news.com