Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Teams Vying for Paralympic Berths on Home Soil at Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games

(Ottawa, Ont.) The Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Teams will look to secure Paralympic berths as they try to capitalize on home court advantage and reach the top of the podium at the Toronto 2015 (TO2015) Parapan American Games.

As a direct qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the TO2015 Parapan Am Games are a crucial tournament for both Canadian teams. The Canadian men must place amongst the top two teams at TO2015 in order to secure a berth to Rio, while the Canadian women must finish in the top three in order to do the same.

Eight teams from the Americas will compete in each of the men’s and women’s competitions at TO2015, with seven clubs in each division attempting to qualify for next summer’s Paralympics. Brazil is already guaranteed a spot at Rio 2016 as the host nation.

The wheelchair basketball competition runs August 8-15 at the Ryerson Athletic Centre (RYA), formerly known as the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, which is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Tickets are available for purchase at www.toronto2015.org/tickets.

Team Canada Men:

The Canadian men are in pursuit of a top-two finish in Toronto in order to secure a berth for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and defend their title as 2012 Paralympic champions. The men are also out for redemption against their Americas zone rivals after Canada failed to qualify for the last world championship by placing sixth at the zone qualification tournament in 2013.

Bo-Hedges---ask-a-player(1)With six returning players from the London 2012 gold medallist team, the Canadian roster is an even mixture of veteran leadership and new blood.

Paralympic champions and Team Canada co-captains Bo Hedges (Wonowon, B.C.) and David Eng (Montreal, Que.) will look to lead their team to victory over the best wheelchair basketball teams in the western hemisphere.

Look for experienced local products Abdi Dini and Adam Lancia, both of Scarborough, Ont. and fellow veterans Tyler Miller (Kitchener, Ont.) and Chad Jassman (Calgary, Alta.) to log big minutes for the Canadian side.

Team Canada’s young guns Nik Goncin (Regina, Sask.) and Liam Hickey (St. John’s, N.L.) lead the youth movement. Goncin is the reigning world junior championship MVP and Hickey is the youngest player on the Canadian roster at just 17 years old. Both players will provide speed and scoring prowess to the team.

Expect Deion Green (Victoria, B.C.), Peter Won (Blackfalds, Alta.), Vincent Dallaire (Quebec, Que.) and Jonathan Vermette (Sherbrooke, Que.) to add high energy into the mix as they make their Parapan American Games debuts.

Canada opens competition against Venezuela on August 8th at 8:45 p.m. ET. Next Canada will look for revenge when it faces world #14 Mexico on August 10th – the team that eliminated Canada’s hopes of competing at the 2014 Men’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship. Canada wraps up preliminary Group B play on August 11th against Argentina.

Group A features the reigning world championship silver medallists from the USA, alongside Puerto Rico, world #10 ranked Colombia and 2016 Paralympic Games host Brazil.

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All eight teams advance to the quarter-finals on August 12th. The semifinals are set for August 14th, with the bronze and gold medal games being played on August 15th.

With just two spots for Rio 2016 up for grabs, the stage is set for one of the most fiercely contested competitions in the history of the Parapan Am Games and Team Canada will need to seize every opportunity to get back to the top of the podium.

Team Canada Women:

Janet MacLachanOn the women’s side, Team Canada must reach the podium (finish top three) in order to qualify for Rio 2016. Confidence is high among the Canadians, who enter the TO2015 competition fresh off a gold medal performance at the world championship last summer. TO2015 will also be a homecoming of sorts for Team Canada, as the women return to the very same venue where they captured the world title just one year ago.

With 10 players returning from the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship gold medal team, the Canadian women are poised to capture a spot at the top of the podium in Toronto.

Offensive star Janet McLachlan (Vancouver, B.C.), will lead the way for Canada, as she and teammate Katie Harnock (Elmira, Ont.) are both coming off all-star performances at the world championship in 2014. McLachlan will co-captain Team Canada along with speedster Cindy Ouellet, of Quebec, Que., who is one of the premiere defensive players in the world.

Competing in her hometown, seasoned veteran Tracey Ferguson (Richmond Hill, Ont.) is a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and four-time world champion who knows what it takes to win. Elaine Allard (St-Eustache, Que.) will compete at her third Parapan Am Games, while world junior championship all-stars Jamey Jewells (Donkin, N.S.) and Maude Jacques (Lac-Beauport, Que.) should factor in as threats on both sides of the ball for Canada.

TO2015 marks the Parapan Am wheelchair basketball debuts for rising star Melanie Hawtin (Oakville, Ont.) and former swimmer Darda Sales (London, Ont.). Sales returns to the Parapan Am Games after winning multiple gold and silver medals in the pool in 2007.

Sharpshooter Arinn Young, of Legal, Alta., looks to carry over the momentum from a strong showing at the junior women’s world championship in early July. Teammates Erica Gavel (Prince Albert, Sask.) and Rosalie Lalonde (St-Clet, Que.) will try to leave a lasting impression as they appear in their first major international tournament with the senior team.

Canada tips-off the TO2015 Parapan Am Games against Guatemala at 6:30 p.m. ET on August 8th. Canada then takes on world #10 ranked Mexico and world #11 ranked Brazil on August 9th and 11th respectively in Group A action.

Group B features the world’s fourth ranked team from the USA, El Salvador, Argentina and world #12 ranked Peru.

The top four teams in preliminary play will advance to the semifinals on August 13th, 2015, while the four remaining teams will decide fifth through eighth place in consolation play. The bronze and gold medal games are set for August 14th, 2015.

With five of the eight teams competing in the Games ranked among the top 12 wheelchair basketball teams in the world, the women’s competition is tighter than it has ever been before. Canada will need to be firing on all cylinders in order to reach the podium and earn a spot at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

About the TO2015 Parapan Am Games

The Toronto 2015 (TO2015) Parapan American Games take place August 7-15, 2015. The Games are a world-class, multi-sport competition featuring the best athletes from the Americas and the Caribbean. TO2015 will be the largest Parapan Am Games ever, with 15 sports being contested at the Games, including wheelchair basketball. For more information, please visit www.toronto2015.org.

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