(Ottawa, ON) The long road to the London 2012 Paralympic Summer Games is winding down and the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Teams have their sights set on a return to the podium in what promises to be a competition for the ages.
The Paralympic Games get underway August 29-September 9, 2012 in London, England. The wheelchair basketball competition runs August 30-September 8 at the Basketball and North Greenwich Arenas.
Team Canada Men:
The Canadian men are in pursuit of their third Paralympic gold and record-setting fourth consecutive podium finish, following back-to-back gold medals in 2000 and 2004 and a silver medal in 2008.
Team Canada has a wealth of experience on its side thanks to its veteran leadership and looks to channel countless hours of rigorous physical training and mental focus to reach its full potential in London.
The Canadian roster is bolstered by the return of Patrick Anderson (Fergus, ON), widely considered one of the premiere players in the world, and 11 returning players, 9 of whom have Paralympic experience. Decorated veterans Dave Durepos (Fredericton, NB), Joey Johnson (Winnipeg, MB) and Richard Peter (Vancouver, BC) will tie a Canadian record by competing in their fifth Paralympic Games in London.
Look for big men David Eng (Montreal, QC) and Adam Lancia (Toronto, ON) to bring some shooting prowess and competitive fire. London 2012 marks the second Paralympic Games for Abdi Dini (Scarborough, ON), Bo Hedges (Wonowon, BC), and Yvon Rouillard (Montreal, QC), who will look to build upon their accomplishments in Beijing with speed, intensity and grit.
Canada opens competition against Japan on August 30, before taking on the speedy hosts from Great Britain along with Poland, and Germany in Pool B. Canada will be hungry for redemption when they face Paralympic rookie Colombia in their final preliminary match – the team that upset them in the semi-finals of the 2011 Parapan American Games.
Pool A features the reigning Paralympic and World Champions from Australia – who Canada faced in both the 2004 and 2008 finals with the teams splitting a win each. Fellow contenders from the United States are also featured in Pool A, alongside Italy, Spain, South Africa and Turkey.
With the dwindling disparity between teams, the stage is set for one of the most fiercely contested competitions in history. Team Canada strives to seize every opportunity to get back to the top of the podium and thereby re-solidify its place as one of the elite wheelchair basketball programs in the world.
Team Canada Women:
The Canadian women go into London 2012 with an invigorated sense of commitment and a burning desire to re-establish themselves as a wheelchair basketball powerhouse.
Following a blistering streak of podium success at the Paralympic Games, including three consecutive gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and a bronze medal in 2004, Canada looks to rebound from a fifth place finish in 2008.
The team is well along the road to redemption after capturing the bronze medal at the last world championship, which marked its sixth consecutive podium finish at the event. As a result, Canada sits third in the world rankings going into London 2012.
Team Canada also underwent a 3-month phase of dynamic physical training, mental preparation and team-building exercises as it fully centralized for the first time in program history ahead of the Paralympic Games. Armed with a new sense of motivation and team chemistry, Canada is poised for a peak performance in London.
The Canadian roster has undergone some turnover since the Paralympic Games in 2008, but features nine returning players from the bronze medallist world championship team, six of whom have Paralympic experience.
Emerging star Janet McLachlan (Vancouver, BC) is a sharpshooter and offensive catalyst while speedy teammate Cindy Ouellet (Quebec, QC) is among the premiere defensive players in the world. Veterans Tara Feser (St. Albert, AB) and Katie Harnock (Elmira, ON) also add on offensive dimension to the line up to go with their poise and skill. All four made their Paralympic debut in 2008 and figure to have a much greater impact in 2012.
London 2012 is the Paralympic debut of Bill Johnson as head coach, and marks the first Paralympic Games for Elaine Allard (St. Eustache, QC), Maude Jacques (Ste-Catherine, QC), Jamey Jewells (Donkin, NS), Tamara Steeves (Mississauga, ON), Elisha Williams (Burnaby, BC), and Jessica Vliegenthart (Kamloops, BC). Allard, Williams and Vliegenthart all won bronze at the world championships and look to raise the bar even further in London. Meanwhile Jacques, Jewells and Steeves will strive to make the most out of every opportunity at their first major international tournament on the senior team.
Canada will face off against the Netherlands in its first game of the competition, followed by contests against a strong club from Australia, Brazil, and the up-and-coming hosts from Great Britain in Pool A.
Meanwhile, Pool B features China, France, Mexico, as well as likely contenders from Germany and the defending champions from the United States.
The women’s competition is tighter than it has ever been before. With the thrilling battle set to unfold in London, Canada strives to rise to the challenge and once again captivate the wheelchair basketball world.