Coming up! Canada confident for Paralympic Games qualifier in wheelchair rugby

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 15, 2024

Also on deck Para track cycling worlds and Para snowboard World Cup at Big White

Mike Whitehead, Wheelchair Rugby

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – With a veteran laden squad including super scorer Zak Madell and defensive stalwart Trevor Hirschfield, Canada is confident it can crack the top three at the WWR Paralympic Qualification Tournament in wheelchair rugby.

The tournament starts Wednesday March 20 and runs to Sunday March 24. It is the last chance tournament to qualify for the Games and the three best go to Paris.

‘’We’re really dialed in for this tournament,’’ said three-time Paralympian Travis Murao of Toronto. ‘’Every Games cycle is different and for Paris we are really looking strong. We’ve  had a lot of success since Tokyo. Now we just got to win that final game in New Zealand.’’

As Murao pointed out the qualifier won’t be easy.

Canada, ranked fifth in the world, is the second seed behind world number-two Australia. Also in the tournament is #8 New Zealand, #9 Germany,  #10 Colombia, #11 Brazil,  #12 Switzerland, and #15 the Netherlands.

Canada is in pool B with Brazil, Netherlands and New Zealand. Pool A is comprised of Australia, Colombia, Germany and Switzerland.

The tournament opens for Canada March 20 vs Brazil followed by preliminary round games against the Netherlands March 21 and New Zealand March 22.

The top-two from each pool advance to the semis on March 23. The semifinal winners guarantee their tickets for Paris and play in the final. The winner of the bronze medal match gets the third spot to the Paralympics. The medal matches are March 24.

Other members of the Canadian team are Patrice Dagenais of Embrun, Ont.,  Eric Rodrigues of Mississauga, Ont., Byron Green of Victoria, Anthony Létourneau of Boisbriand, Que., Cody Caldwell of Peterborough, Ont., Joel Ewert of Prince George, B.C., Rio Kanda Kovac of Toronto, and Matt Debly and Mike Whitehead both of Windsor, Ont.

Madell is from Okotoks, Alta., and Hirschfield from Parksville, B.C.

Countries qualified so far for the Games are: France, the U.S. , Great Britain, Japan and Denmark. The Americans beat Canada in the final at the Parapan American Games last November to get their spot.

Canada fields five entries for Para cycling track world championships

World champion Mel Pemble of Victoria headlines a five-member Canadian team for the Para cycling track world championships also set for March 20-24 in Rio.

Joining Pemble on the women’s side are Keely Shaw of Midale Sask., and Kate O’Brien of Calgary, also both world championship medallists.

On the men’s side Alexandre Hayward of Quispamsis, N.B., and Lowell Taylor with his pilot Ed Veal are the Canadian entries.

At last year’s track worlds in Scotland, Pemble successfully defended her C4 Omnium crown and added silver in the scratch race and bronze in the 500m time trial. Shaw took silver in the women’s C4 pursuit while O’Brien, a 2020 world champion,  also won silver in the C4 500m.

Big White, B.C. hosts Para snowboard World Cup

More than 50 riders from 10 countries are expected to compete at the Para snowboard World Cup competition March 23-24 at the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C.

The Canadian team will feature Tyler Turner of Campbell River, B.C., who became Canada’s first Paralympic Games champion in the sport at the 2022 Beijing Games with a victory in the snowboard cross. He added a bronze in the banked slalom as well.

Turner competed earlier this year at the World Cup in Finland and won both snowboard cross races.

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