Canada’s nationwide wheelchair rugby group is able to tackle the world.
Riding a wave of momentum after beating Paralympic champion Great Britain within the Quad Nations remaining final month, Canada enters the Wheelchair Rugby World Championship in Denmark as a critical medal menace.
Ranked sixth internationally, the Canadians have been firing on all cylinders in 2022, displaying main development since a disappointing fifth-place end on the Tokyo Paralympics final summer season. Along with an undefeated run on the Quad Nations event in Wales, the group additionally gained silver in June on the Canada Cup in Richmond, B.C.
“It’s superb, the best way we have variety of come collectively. We’ve discovered a lot from Tokyo, and I believe we have actually put into place the steps that we have to be a profitable group,” mentioned Shayne Smith, who has performed on the group since 2017.
Canada’s 12-man roster on the world championship contains 11 members from the Tokyo Paralympic squad, with co-captains Trevor Hirschfield and Patrice Dagenais main the best way.
‘We’re dialled in’
Travis Murao, a 39-year-old group veteran who has competed at 4 Paralympics, mentioned the group is feeling assured after every part got here collectively in Wales, as they’re peaking on the proper time.
“We’re dialled in and we’re proper there, so I believe the group’s fairly excited,” Murao mentioned.
“I believe we have been variety of constructing in direction of the world championship, and we have had some good outcomes, however we’ve not fairly had the consistency that we confirmed in Wales, so to finish on a excessive observe earlier than the world championship is a large confidence increase.”
The event in Vejle options 12 groups, that are cut up into two teams for the preliminary matches. Canada is competing in Group B towards top-ranked Japan, Australia (4), Denmark (7), Brazil (9) and Colombia (11).
Group A options Great Britain (2), the United States (3), France (5), New Zealand (8), Germany (10) and Switzerland (12). The high 4 groups from every group advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada completed sixth on the final world championship in 2018 in Sydney, Australia, the place Japan captured the gold medal. The Canadians gained silver on the 2014 version and are trying to find their first world title since 2002.
Smith mentioned the group’s development for the reason that 2018 worlds has been immense.
“It’s the identical core group of guys, and it is such a special group. It’s actually been such a tremendous factor to develop with these guys and to see us develop. I’m feeling very assured about the place we’re at,” Smith mentioned.
We checked in with <a href=”https://twitter.com/ZMadell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ZMadell</a> to seek out out what the Canadian wheelchair rugby group has been as much as since profitable the Quad Nations Cup. Check it out and tune in to the Paralympic <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperSeries?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SuperSeries</a> protection of the wheelchair rugby World Cup Oct 11-16 <a href=”https://twitter.com/WCRugbyCanada?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@WCRugbyCanada</a> <a href=”https://t.co/5x4DUXKbn3″>pic.twitter.com/5x4DUXKbn3</a>
Band of brothers
An instrumental half of that development has been group chemistry, which grew even stronger within the wake of the pandemic. The seasoned group is gelling like by no means earlier than, each on and off the court docket.
“Team chemistry has been particularly dialled in during the last couple years,” Murao mentioned. “I believe COVID actually made us notice how necessary it’s for us to remain linked and to help one another and be one another’s help networks.
Smith mentioned they’re extra like a household than a group at this level, spending time collectively off the court docket as nicely. The group’s shut bond interprets onto the court docket and helps them overcome adversity in powerful video games, an element that may in the end make the distinction.
“You’re going to have ups and downs, however when you could have one another’s backs and you already know trying on the man subsequent to you, he has your again, there is not any substitute for that,” Smith mentioned.
That tight-knit dynamic helped the group rebound after lacking the Paralympic podium final summer season.
The Canadians entered Tokyo feeling ready and assured, however they misplaced some tight video games and failed to succeed in the knockout stage. A powerful efficiency from offensive star Zak Madell led Canada previous France within the fifth-place match.
“Tokyo was devastating for us,” Murao mentioned. “We did not obtain the end result we got down to, however I believe the entire group variety of took that and actually used it as motivation. I believe we’re prepared to realize a great end result [in Denmark].”
Keys to success at worlds
Canada faces powerful competitors within the group stage, together with Tokyo bronze medallists Japan and an Australian squad that all the time presents a serious problem. Japan edged Canada in time beyond regulation to say gold on the Canada Cup remaining in June.
The Canadians will face Japan of their second match after taking over Australia within the opener.
“For all of the video games, however Japan particularly, it should be about getting out to a great begin,” Murao mentioned. “We cannot dig ourselves a gap early. I believe that is one thing we have been specializing in, and I believe that is going to be one of our keys to success.”
Murao mentioned the important thing to maintaining their momentum moving into Denmark might be remaining targeted and doing what they do finest — enjoying as a cohesive unit.
“If we will all be on the identical web page and keep targeted, I believe we’ve an awesome probability of success.”
- Zak Madell — Okotoks, Alta.
- Fabien Lavoie — Quebec City
- Mike Whitehead — Windsor, Ont.
- Matt Debly — Windsor, Ont.
- Shayne Smith — Toronto
- Cody Caldwell — Peterborough, Ont.
- Anthony Létourneau — Boisbriand, Que.
- Travis Murao — Toronto
- Patrice Dagenais — Embrun, Ont.
- Trevor Hirschfield — Parksville, B.C.
- Eric Rodrigues — Mississauga, Ont.
- Byron Green — Vancouver