(Ottawa, ON) Iconic international wheelchair basketball stars Kendra “Gonzo” Ohama and Richard “Bear” Peter have announced their retirements from the Canadian National Wheelchair Basketball Teams. The pair wrap-up their extraordinarily successful careers following decades of performance at the highest level in which they established themselves as elite talents and pioneers of the sport.
“I have been to six Paralympics and it is time to move on and enjoy life from another perspective, to spend time with my family, focus on my job, and to know what is it like to take a real vacation,” said Ohama.
“I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel around the world and play the sport I love, but after five Paralympics and several years competing for professional clubs overseas my body was telling me it was time. It will be great for a change to stay at home and spend more time with the family. I’m looking forward to resting the body, mind, and soul,” said Peter.
Spanning their careers, the two class 2.5 players were key contributors in Canada’s repeated podium success and collectively helped establish Canada’s reputation as a world leader on and off the court. Between them they combined for a remarkable six Paralympic and five World Championship gold medals, all part of an impressive medal haul that saw them clad in gold, silver, and bronze 17 times.
“Kendra is one of the most successful athletes in the history of our program and the ultimate team player.”
“Kendra is one of the most successful athletes in the history of our program and the ultimate team player. She has many unique qualities that make her a special talent, but her willingness to embrace any and every role made her a true leader. The positive impact she makes, and the example she sets for our younger athletes, day in and day out, is what our program will miss most,” said Bill Johnson Team Canada women’s head coach.
Ohama joined the Canadian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team in 1991 as one of the quickest and most agile players in the world. Over the course of her 21-year career not much has changed – entering retirement she is still lightning-quick.
“My high light would be my very first Paralympics in Barcelona Spain and entering the stadium for the first time. Pretty cool feeling hearing all those people cheering for your country,” she said. “Secondly, hearing the Canadian anthem while someone is putting the best item around my neck, a big hunk of GOLD.”
Ohama was part of a dominant team that is one of the most successful in Canadian amateur sports history highlighted by a decade-long winning streak in which they won three consecutive Paralympics (1992, 1996, and 2000), and four straight World Championships (1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006). In addition to her seven gold medals, she won bronze at the 2004 Paralympics and 2010 World Championships. She was named a Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League all-star three times.
“What I will miss the most are my girls, spending time with them, training together, creating memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.”
“Bear always gave it his all on court and always made time for the mentoring of younger player off court.”
Peter became a member of the Canadian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team in 1994 and quickly developed a reputation as a clutch player. Fittingly he capped off his career by sinking both of his free-throws in the London 2012 Paralympics final, securing the gold medal for Canada in the process (a 64-58 victory over Australia).
“I remember sitting on the bench waiting to get back in the game and I was ready to take it to Australia. I was part of that last little run to take control of game. I guess something I’ve always tried to do over course of my career is contribute where I can and play strong defense,” said Peter.
London 2012 would mark Canada’s, and Peter’s, third gold medal in four consecutive Paralympics (2000, 2004, and 2012). They also took home silver in 2008. Through participation at five World Championships Peter won three bronze medals (1994, 1998, and 2002) and one gold (2006). The 2008 Wheelchair Basketball Canada Male athlete of the Year has been named a Canadian National Championship all-star five times and was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Richard “Bear” Peter has the invaluable ability as a world class mid-point player to be able to guard up and, conversely, be able to score against big men in the paint. This along with his superior pressing skills made him a key player in Canada’s emergence as a wheelchair basketball superpower beginning with our first gold medal in Sydney 2000, right up to our recent gold medal in London 2012. Bear always gave it his all on court and always made time for the mentoring of younger player off court,” said Jerry Tonello Team Canada men’s head coach.
Peter’s trophy case also includes a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (2012) and Tom Longboat National Award for Aboriginal Male Athlete of the Year (2000). He is passionate and proud of his heritage and says that in retirement he will continue to try and be a good role model by inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
“I love being back home and sharing my story with the people in Duncan, especially the youth. I want to get the message across that every dream is achievable if you do the right things,” said Peter.
About Team Canada
The Senior Men’s National Team went undefeated at the London 2012 Paralympics to capture their third gold medal in four Paralympic Games. It is the latest accomplishment in a sport dynasty that has placed them on the podium at four consecutive Paralympics and at five of the last six World Championships.
The Senior Women’s National Team is amongst the most successful and dominant teams in Canadian amateur sport history. The team captured three consecutive Paralympic gold medals in 1992, 1996, and 2000, and bronze in 2004. They have also reached the podium at six consecutive World Championships.