OTTAWA – The 24 wheelchair basketball players who will compete for gold for Canada at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games next month have been selected, as Wheelchair Basketball Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced the men’s and women’s teams on Thursday.
Lima 2019 is a direct qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for Canada. The men’s team must finish in the Top 3 to earn a spot in next year’s Paralympics, while the women must finish in the Top 2.
“Congratulations to all 24 supremely well-deserving individuals who have been selected to play for Canada in Lima!” said Stephanie Dixon, chef de mission of the Lima 2019 Canadian Parapan Am Team. “I know how important these Games are for our wheelchair basketball teams and the entire Canadian Parapan Am Team will be behind you. We know you are ready for the challenge, and I am so excited to support you and cheer you on.”
The Canadian men, silver medallists at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games, finished 12th overall at the world championships last year. They are the third-highest ranked team from the Americas, behind USA and Argentina.
The squad will be led in Lima by veteran co-captains Bo Hedges and David Eng, as well as Patrick Anderson who is arguably the best wheelchair basketball player ever. Eight players on the team are Paralympians, with five (Anderson, Eng, Hedges, Jassman, Miller) owning Paralympic medals. Three athletes (Higgins, Melymick, Mutware) will be making their multi-sport Games debut, with one (Mutware) also making his international debut for Canada.
“Wheelchair basketball is a great spectator sport that is experiencing rapid growth and gaining popularity here in Canada and around the world,” said Eng. “This makes it that much harder for teams to qualify for Tokyo 2020, and with limited qualification spots on the line, the matchups in Lima are going to be intense and fierce. As athletes, as competitors, and as a team fortunate to represent our great country, we are hungry for the opportunity to perform in that kind of environment and earn our place on top of the podium.”
The Canadian women finished fifth at the world championships last year, where they were the top nation from the Americas. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Canada was also fifth overall, but second in the Americas behind the USA who won gold.
Arinn Young and Cindy Ouellet will co-captain the team in Lima, where the squad will feature seven Paralympians (Gavel, Hawtin, Jacques, Ouellet, Lalonde, Steeves, Young) and five newcomers to multi-sport Games (Bérubé, Dandeneau, Lai, Llanes, Tessier). Canada won the silver medal in the women’s wheelchair basketball tournament four years ago at the Parapan Am Games.
“Competing for and representing your country in a sport you love is a dream shared by many athletes, but few get to do it at a high level,” said Ouellet. “That is why it really is a privilege and an honour for us to put on the Canadian jersey and to showcase wheelchair basketball. On the women’s team, we are 12 athletes that have worked extremely hard to make our country proud, and we look forward to exposing more Canadians to the game which is physical, fast-paced, and fun to watch.”
In both men’s and women’s action in Lima, Canada will compete in Group A for the preliminary round alongside Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. The top four finishers in the women’s event will move onto the semifinals, while the men’s tournament will see all eight nations re-seeded for the quarter-finals.
Canada’s schedule is as follows:
• August 24: Canada vs. Colombia WOMEN
• August 25: Canada vs. Colombia MEN
• August 25: Canada vs. Argentina WOMEN
• August 26: Canada vs. Mexico MEN
• August 27: Canada vs. Mexico WOMEN
• August 27: Canada vs. Argentina MEN
• August 28: Quarter-finals MEN
• August 29: Semifinals WOMEN
• August 30: Semifinals MEN
• August 30: Gold and bronze medal games WOMEN
• August 31: Gold and bronze medal games MEN
“Lima 2019 is a critical competition and good test for us on the road to Tokyo 2020,” said Jeff Dunbrack, high performance director, Wheelchair Basketball Canada. “Both teams have really been developing and growing over the last year, and I’m excited to see all the hard work that the athletes, coaches, and staff are putting in each and every day pay off with strong performances. With an increased emphasis on performance preparations and laser sharp focus on qualifying, we will be ready to compete and earn our spot at the Paralympic Games.”
The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games will take place August 23 to September 1 in Peru and will surpass Toronto 2015 as the largest Parapan Am Games ever with a record 1,850 athletes set to participate. Canada is expecting to send a team of approximately 152 athletes and competition partners in 13 sports. The Canadian Paralympic Committee will announce the official full team heading to the Games later this month.
LIMA 2019 PARAPAN AM GAMES WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL WOMEN’S TEAM
|NAME||HOMETOWN||AGE IN LIMA|
|Rosalie Lalonde*||Saint-Clet, QC||22|
|Élodie Tessier||Saint-Germain de Grantham, QC||23|
|Arinn Young*||Legal, AB||23|
|Cindy Ouellet*||Quebec City, QC||30|
|Tamara Steeves*||Mississauga, ON||29|
|Maude Jacques*||Lac-Beauport, QC||27|
|Puisand Lai||Toronto, ON||19|
|Tara Llanes||North Vancouver, BC||42|
|Sandrine Bérubé||Beauharnois, QC||20|
|Kady Dandeneau||Pender Island, BC||29|
|Erica Gavel*||Prince Albert, SK||28|
|Melanie Hawtin*||Oakville, ON||31|
LIMA 2019 PARAPAN AM GAMES WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL MEN’S TEAM
|NAME||HOMETOWN||AGE IN LIMA|
|Nik Goncin*||Regina, SK||27|
|Deion Green*||Victoria, BC||29|
|Bo Hedges*||Wonowon, BC||39|
|Vincent Dallaire||Quebec City, QC||24|
|Blaise Mutware||Scarborough, ON||25|
|Colin Higgins||Rothesay, NB||28|
|Lee Melymick||Toronto, ON||24|
|Chad Jassman*||Calgary, AB||35|
|Patrick Anderson*||Fergus, ON||40|
|Jonathan Vermette*||Sherbrooke, QC||28|
|Tyler Miller*||Kitchener, ON||35|
|David Eng*||Montreal QC||42|