Canada looks for return to podium in wheelchair rugby

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 19, 2021

Canadians edged out for bronze in 2016

Rugby action

With nine returnees from the Rio Paralympics including scoring machine Zak Madell and defensive stalwarts Trevor Hirschfield and Patrice Dagenais, Canada is certainly in the mix for medals in wheelchair rugby at Tokyo 2020.

Canada, sixth at the last world championships, is in pool B with USA, New Zealand, and Great Britain. The Americans beat the British in the bronze medal game at the 2018 worlds.

“I think a great accomplishment for our team would be to finish on the podium and bring back a medal, so that’s the goal for sure,’’ Dagenais, headed to his third Games, told CBC Ottawa earlier this month.

The other pool is comprised of Japan, Australia, Denmark and France. Australia is the two-time defending Paralympic champion but Japan beat the Aussies in the final at the 2018 world championships. 

Canada will open its Tokyo campaign on August 25 versus Great Britain followed by games against USA (August 26) and New Zealand (August 27). The semifinals and classification matches will be contested on August 28 before the wheelchair rugby competition wraps up on August 29 with the medal matches.

The Canadians qualified for the Games in March 2020, just before the pandemic shut all competition down, taking one of two spots available at the last chance qualifier held in Richmond, B.C. 

Wheelchair rugby made its debut as a demonstration event at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games (Canada placed second) but was awarded medal status four years later at Sydney 2000 and has remained ever since. 

Australia is currently atop the world rankings, with USA and Japan in second and third. Canada is at number five. USA have also won two Paralympic gold medals (Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008), with New Zealand topping the podium at Athens 2004. Five different continents are represented in the world’s top 10.

Canada won silver medals in 2004 and 2012 and a bronze in 2008. The sport was co-invented by Canadian Duncan Campbell who developed the basic rules and regulations of the game and assured the sport was designed so that quadriplegics and others with high-level disabilities would have a sport they could call their own. It was introduced to the world in 1977.

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