HAMBURG, Germany – With the return of super-player Patrick Anderson, Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team hopes it can erase the memory of its 2016 Paralympic Games showing at the world championships which get underway Thursday in Hamburg, Germany.
The 39-year-old Anderson helped Canada to gold medals at the 2000, 2004, and 2012 Paralympic Games along with a silver in 2008. However after the London Games he took a five-year hiatus to pursue other interests including a music career.
Without Anderson at the Rio 2016 Games, Canada placed 11th.
In his return last season to the team, Anderson led Canada to second spot at the Americas Cup. He averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game and was named tournament MVP. The result qualified Canada for the worlds in Hamburg.
“Even after playing some preparation tournaments this summer we are going to have to be at the top of our game,’’ said Anderson who along with Tyler Miller, David Eng, Bo Hedges and Chad Jassman were on the 2012 golden squad. ‘’I’m really looking forward to being back.’’
There are 16 countries in the men’s tournament. In the round robin, the Canadians face Morocco (worlds debut) on Friday, Germany (ranked eighth in the world) Sunday and No. 10 Iran on Monday.
On the women’s side, Canada is the defending world champion and was fifth at the 2016 Paralympics. The Canadian women have reached the podium at every world championships since the inaugural event in 1990, winning gold five times and bronze twice.
The 2018 squad features five returning athletes from the 2014 Toronto worlds, while five are making their debut at a major international tournament.
Leading the way for Canada are Paralympians and world champions Melanie Hawtin, Maude Jacques, Cindy Ouellet, Tamara Steeves and Arinn Young.
“The first time you come out on court, it just hits you – we’re here, this is real, we’re about to fight for a gold medal,” said Young. “I hope the fans and all the other teams are ready for it because every single team is going to be coming out swinging for that medal and honestly I’m just really pumped to be a part of it all.”
There are 12 countries entered in the women’s tournament. In the round robin, Canada faces world No. 4 Britain on Friday, Spain on Saturday, Australia on Sunday, world No. 3 Netherlands on Tuesday and Brazil on Wednesday.
Playoff action follows the round robin with the women’s final on Saturday August 25 and the men’s final on August 26.
The top four teams for the men and women earn a Paralympic spot for their zone (Americas zone for Canada). The qualifying tournament for Canada for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games is the Parapan American Games next year in Lima, Peru.
Team Canada information: http://www.wheelchairbasketball.ca/event/2018-world-wheelchair-basketball-championships/
Official website: https://iwbf.org/event/2018-world-championships/