OTTAWA – Buoyed by a spectacular victory at last month’s Quad Nations Cup, Canada’s wheelchair rugby team is confident it can battle for one of the three spots on the podium at the world championships, which start Tuesday in Vejle, Denmark.
Canada rolls into the worlds with 11 of its 12-member team that took fifth spot last year at Tokyo 2020. This year, Canada won the silver behind Japan at the Canada Cup in Richmond, B.C. before its triumph at the Quad Nations in Wales.
In Cardiff, Canada defeated the reigning Paralympic champions Great Britain in double overtime in the final to finish the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record.
They also beat the Brits in OT in the preliminary round, Germany twice, and France.
“Everything is going the way we hoped leading into worlds, so it seems pretty exciting,” said Canadian team co-captain Trevor Hirschfield. “The team is pretty hungry to get on that podium.”
Canada’s scoring sensation Zak Madell says Canada needs to stay in the same lane for the worlds.
“We need to focus on all things we’ve been working on since the Paralympic Games,” said Madell, a three-time Paralympian. “It took a couple of years to get used to new leadership on our team and everybody seems to have embraced our new style of play.”
Apart from its wins over Great Britain, Canada has beaten other top teams, including Paralympic Games bronze medallists Japan, Australia, and Denmark. Paralympic silver medallists USA will also be one of the favourites at worlds.
“There’s no reason we can’t beat any of those teams at the world championships. We have our eyes on beating everyone over there and hopefully bringing home the gold medal,” added Madell.
Canada was sixth at the last worlds in 2018 and silver medallists in 2014. Its only world title was in 2002.
In the latest world rankings released last month, Japan is number-one, Great Britain second and USA third.
Canada is ranked sixth behind Australia in fourth and France in fifth.
Canada’s assistant coach David Willsie, a five-time Paralympian, says this is one of the best teams he’s been a part of.
“I’m really confident we have a shot,” he said. “The top six to seven countries are really, really good. You can’t sleep on anybody.
“That being said, nobody better sleep on us either.”
Canada plays its pool opponents Australia, Japan, Colombia, Brazil, and Denmark between October 11-13.
The top eight teams will play in the quarterfinals on Friday October 14, with the semifinals taking place the following day.
The world championships wrap up October 16 with the final matches, including the bronze and gold medal games.
Canada’s games will be available through the Paralympic Super Series, with three matches set to stream live and two games aired via extended highlights shows. They all can be viewed on on Paralympic.ca and the CPC’s Facebook page as well as CBC Sports digital platforms, including the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
Canada’s Game Schedule
Tuesday October 11
Canada vs. Australia – 3:45 pm local time / 9:45 am ET – LIVESTREAM
Wednesday October 12
Canada vs. Japan – 9 am local time / 3 am ET (game will air via delayed highlights show)
Canada vs. Colombia – 5 pm local time / 11 am ET – LIVESTREAM
Thursday October 13
Canada vs. Brazil – 10 am local time / 4 am ET (game will air via delayed highlights show)
Canada vs. Denmark – 6 pm local time / 12 pm ET – LIVESTREAM
To learn more about the 2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship, visit 2022WRWC.com.