Out of the 45 test events designated by the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games (TO2015) organizing committee, only 28 take place at their the actual games-time venue. The intensely competitive 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship (2014WWWBC) is a perfect fit to be a part of the games-time events.
The tournament, taking place at Ryerson Universities’ Mattamy Athletic Centre, offers a perfect precursor to hype up wheelchair basketball spectators all over the world. A hugely excited crowd of Canadian sport fans plan to welcome Canada’s first Parapan American Games ever hosted in August of 2015. The Games will mark just the second major Para-games taking place in Toronto, preceded only by the 1976 Summer Paralympics.
Currently, five Parapan Nations competing in the 2014WWWBC tournament are potentially eligible to send their top team rosters back to Toronto to take part in the Parapan Am Games. Several countries including the likes of the United States and Brazil have hosted Pan American games in the past (Indianapolis 1987 and Rio De Janeiro in 2007). Mexico, having hosted the 2011 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara, also has the possibility of participating in Parapan’s Women’s Wheelchair Basketball competition.
The Parapan Am Games will also serve as the qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Summer Games. With Canada and the United States guaranteed a top four finish at the 2014WWWBC, the Americas will receive four of the ten berths in Rio. Where the teams finish at the Parapan Ams will determine who will take those coveted spots.
A particularly unique women’s wheelchair basketball team that may return to Toronto is the nation of Peru. Not only does Peru’s involvement in the 2014WWWBC mark the first time they have qualified for a major tournament, they are also up next to host the 2019 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in the Peruvian capital city, Lima.
Amongst all countries, there is no doubt that the buzz is already percolating here in Canada leading up to TO2015.
“I think the (2014WWWBC) is a great way to showcase some real para-sport talent” said Saad Rafi, CEO of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am games. “The people in the Greater Toronto Area can come out and see some real competitive basketball, similar to the competitive nature they’d see at any of our Parapan sports.”
Attendees of the 2014WWWBC are granted a fantastic opportunity to look into the future and see what the TO2015 games have in store for them. That excitement spreads across all members of the tournament, from fans to volunteers and even to athletes of the Pan American nations.
“The cultural component of the Pan American games provides a whole other dimension and new flavour” says Tracey Ferguson, Toronto-born member of Canada’s Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball team. “I think anytime you really get to compete in Canada gives you that home court advantage. We have some unreal fans here and just to get them behind you is truly inspiring”.
The 2014WWWBC has already broken barriers of its own. It is the first women’s wheelchair basketball competition to be held separately from men’s in nearly 20 years. The event is also the largest international women’s wheelchair basketball competition ever held, including a presence of 12 countries with a total of 400 athletes, coaches, officials’, delegates and volunteers in attendance.
“Celebrating the women’s competition as a standalone world championship is the most unique part of this tournament,” said Steve Bach, President of Wheelchair Basketball Canada.
“Though we will continue with our efforts to expand the tournament, we are looking to keep the competition at the spirited IWBF [International Wheelchair Basketball Federation] level, and supply the Toronto Parapan Am Games with some of the most competitive teams ever”.
The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games stretch from July 10-26 and Parapan Games taking place from August 7-15. For more information on what TO2015 has to offer at their website: http://www.toronto2015.org/.
Be sure to watch the remaining games of the 2014 WWWBC tournament at Sports Canada TV (http://sportscanada.tv/index.php/wheelchair-basketball) and CBC Sports (http://www.cbc.ca/sports).