Canadian wheelchair basketball teams on the rise in Tokyo

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 16, 2021

Teams want to be back on podium


Something very unusual happened at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. Both the Canadian men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams did not reach the podium. That was a first since the 1984 Games, which were co-hosted by New York and Stoke-Mandeville, Great Britain.

In Tokyo, the women’s team is looking for a first medal since a bronze in 2004 which capped a string of four consecutive Paralympic Games podiums for Canada including three gold. The women were sixth in London and improved to fifth in Rio. 

In 2019 at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Canada won the gold medal in women’s wheelchair basketball to qualify for the Tokyo Games. The Canadians defeated the defending Paralympic champions USA in the final.

“A gold medal is the ultimate goal,’’ said Games rookie Tara Llanes to the Squamish Chief about the squad’s Tokyo objectives.

‘’You don’t get up and grind every single day to not have that outcome. When we’re working together, we’re a force. I have full confidence and know that we can win gold. It’s just playing our game, doing what we know how to do.”

Canada has a tough opener in the women’s tournament facing 2018 world championship silver medallists Great Britain on August 25. The team faces its other round-robin opponents Japan on August 27, Germany on August 28, and Australia on August 29. The elimination and medal rounds run from August 31 to September 4.

The other pool is comprised of world champion Netherlands alongside USA, Algeria, China and Spain.

“I think our style of play is very strong and could get us up there,” said Tamara Steeves, a member of Canada’s 2014 world champion squad, to “It will be a totally different experience compared to what I experienced in the past with the fans. In Rio [2016], you couldn’t hear anybody on the court.”

After Canada’s dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s, USA has been the most dominant in the women’s event with four total Paralympic titles, with Rio 2016 gold being its third in the last four tournaments. 

The Canadian men face a higher mountain than the women. The team shockingly placed 11th in Rio and was 12th at the 2018 worlds. But a silver medal at the Parapan Ams in 2019 and the return of star player Patrick Anderson (who did not compete in Rio) has provided positive feelings again.

‘’It’s a different feeling going in the middle of the pack, as an underdog,’’ said Anderson, headed to his fifth Paralympic Games, to Citytv. ‘’I’ve never been in that position before, going into the Games.’’

The Canadian men face fifth ranked and defending silver medallists Spain on August 26, Turkey on August 27, Japan on August 28, South Korea on August 29 and Colombia on August 30. The medal matches for the men are September 5, the last day of the Games.

The other pool is comprised of defending champions USA as well as Germany, Australia, Iran, Great Britain and Algeria. Great Britain and the U.S. finished first and second at the 2018 worlds.

“I think we have podium potential,” said three-time Paralympian Tyler Miller to “Now it’s on us. We’ve put the time in, we’ve had support and we’ve been lucky to centralize since May.”

Before Rio, Canada dominated the men’s Paralympic tournaments, having made the final at four straight Paralympic Games led by Anderson, who is often considered the sport’s greatest-ever player – with Paralympic gold in 2000, 2004, and 2012.

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