(Ottawa, Ont.) Twenty four years after her Paralympic Games debut in 1992, the competitive fire still burns brightly for Canadian wheelchair basketball veteran Tracey Ferguson.
In May, Ferguson was one of twelve athletes named to the Canadian Women’s National Team roster for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The upcoming Games in Rio de Janeiro will be her seventh Paralympics, where she will look to secure a fifth Paralympic medal. It has been an incredible journey for the native of Richmond Hill, Ont.
“The reality is that I really like playing and it’s a great sport,” said Ferguson. “I’ve been really fortunate to be relatively injury-free throughout my career and have had great opportunities to stay playing at a high level. So as long as I can keep contributing to the National Team and the program, then I’m happy to do so and I really enjoy it.”
During her first three Paralympic appearances, Ferguson was part of a dominant Canadian women’s team that brought home an unprecedented three consecutive gold medals after 19 consecutive victories in Paralympic Games competition. The streak ended in the semifinals during the Athens 2004 Games, after which the women’s team rebounded to win bronze.
Growth of the Movement
After competing at the Paralympics in four continents and six countries, Ferguson has witnessed firsthand the growth and evolution of the Paralympic Movement.
The greatest evolution from Ferguson’s point of view has been the increase in the promotion and publicity around the Paralympics and the shift in focus within mainstream media from the special interest angle to sport and athletic performance.
“Really it all culminated in London in 2012. London did such a great job of promoting the Games for the athleticism and the athletes.
“A lot of countries, because they’ve seen this evolution in the Paralympics and the opportunities it presents for athletes with a disability, they’ve promoted it at home. So the strength of the Paralympic Movement and the talent base has gotten stronger as well.”
Breaking new ground in Rio
“I think (Rio will be) really exciting because this is the first Olympics and Paralympics that have been hosted in South America, so that’s ground-breaking right there in itself. To be able to bring the Paralympic Movement to South America in that way is a huge opportunity.”
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games run September 7-18. Around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries will travel to Rio de Janeiro to compete in 526 medal events in 22 different Paralympic sports. Team Canada will compete in a field of 12 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams in wheelchair basketball from September 8-17.
“Brazilians love basketball so I have a suspicion that they will be out in droves to cheer, not only for Brazil, but just basketball as a sport on. So that will be exciting for us as well.”
While Ferguson is the lone holdover on the Canadian roster from the dynasty years at the Paralympic Games, Team Canada enters Rio 2016 as the top-ranked squad thanks to its gold medal performance at the world championship in 2014. While the competition will be fierce, she is confident the Canadian side can make waves in Rio.
“I think we have a lot of potential. We have a mix of veterans and youth and it’s just a really great team to be a part of.”
“Ultimately for us it’s about the competition. We have to narrow in and it’s an opportunity for us to play the other nine best women’s teams in the world so we have to focus on that and be our best.”
About Team Canada
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 seven consecutive world championships.
About Wheelchair Basketball Canada
Wheelchair Basketball Canada is the national sports governing body responsible for the organization of the sport in Canada. It is a non-profit, charitable organization that is committed to excellence in the development, support and promotion of wheelchair basketball programs and services for all Canadians from grassroots to high performance. Wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, competitive sport in which Canada is held in high esteem around the world for winning a combined six gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in the last six Paralympic Games.