Never mind resolutions - Canada’s Paralympians are resolute: they want to bring home gold from the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio set for September 7-18, 2016.
“We have the targets on our back,” said Trevor Hirschfield of Canada’s world number-one ranked wheelchair rugby team. “We can no longer fly under the radar. If we want to stay at the top we better be willing to fight for it.”
Hirschfield was a member of the last two Canadian Paralympic wheelchair rugby teams that won bronze in 2008 in Beijing and silver in 2012 in London. He says this group has matured, as evidenced by gold medal performances at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto in August 2015 and the BT Challenge in London,UK in October 2015.
“We have a great bunch of guys,” he said. “It’s very much family. “When it’s time to go on the court and be professional we are ready.”
The 2016 season is all about Rio for Becky Richter of Saskatoon. She is one of the blossoming stars in international para-athletics over the past three years. In 2015, the wheelchair thrower took gold and bronze in club throw and discus at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, then added a bronze in club throw a few weeks later at the IPC World Championships.
“We took some time off after the worlds and the now big push is on towards Rio,” she said. “We have a really big game plan and I want to capitalize on these opportunities. I feel fortunate that the funding is there for me to focus on my preparations and I want to bring home a medal for Canada.”
Nic Goncin of the men’s wheelchair basketball team says he and his teammates are still stinging from the loss to arch-rivals United States in the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games final. Canada would love nothing more than keep the Paralympic title it won in 2012.
“The rivalry against the Americans is very intense,” said Goncin. “A lot of our players went to school down there so either we know them well or have developed rivalries in college ball. Every time you lose it sucks, but to the U.S. it’s extra painful.”
With countless hours of training, travel and tournaments, Canada’s Paralympians are going to push themselves to their limits this year, but it will be all worthwhile if they achieve their goals in Rio.