The World Sledge Hockey Challenge January 17-23 in Bridgewater, N.S. and the Paralympic Games in Rio this September bookend a busy 2016 for Canadian para-athletes.
In Bridgewater, the Canadians go for gold against South Korea, Russia and the United States – three of their toughest sledge hockey rivals. In the tournament’s eight-year history, Canada has won five gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. Canada beat South Korea 4-1 in the bronze-medal game at the 2015 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Leduc, Alta.
Other big Paralympic sport events scheduled for 2016 on Canadian soil include:
- February 10-13: para-snowboard, World Cup, Big White, B.C.
- February 11-14: para-taekwondo, 2016 Canada Open, Montreal
- April 5-10: para-swimming, Paralympic Games Trials, Toronto
- April 25-May 1: Défi sportif, Montreal
- April 26-May 2: boccia, BISFed 2016, Montreal
- April 27- May 1: wheelchair fencing, World Cup, Laval, Que.
- June 24-26: wheelchair rugby, Canada Cup, Richmond, B.C.
Para-taekwondo will make its Paralympic Games debut in 2020 (along with para-badminton), while Canada’s wheelchair rugby team is currently ranked number-one in the world.
There are also some major international events prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games for Canadian para-athletes. They include:
- February 21-28: wheelchair curling, world championships, Lucerne, Switzerland
- March 17-23: sitting volleyball, World Para-Volley Intercontinental, Hangzhou City, China
Canada looks to regain the gold medal position at the wheelchair curling worlds after a shocking sixth place finish in 2015. For the Canadian men’s sitting volleyball team, the China tournament is its last chance to qualify for the Paralympic Games.
The Paralympic Games are set for Rio September 7-18. The competition is expected to attract more than 4,000 athletes from 176 countries which will battle for a total of 528 medals in 23 sports. Para-canoe and para-triathlon are the two new sports to the program.
Canada expects to send a team of approximately 200 athletes to compete in Rio. Qualification is ongoing and the full team will be officially announced in summer 2016.