LONDON, Sept. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada fought a battle on the court, but it wasn't enough to fend off the Australians and so Canada will return home from the London 2012 Paralympic Games as silver medallists. The final result was 66-51 for the Aussies, led by Ryley Batt and Chris Bond, who between them scored 52 of Australia's 66 goals.
After a thrilling one-point victory against the USA to advance to the gold medal game, Canada wasn't able to repeat the performance of the previous day. The team started off flat, turning the ball over twice in the first minutes of the game.
"I thought we had a good game plan against Australia, but man, they came out on fire," said head coach Kevin Orr. "I really liked the way our guys responded during the tournament. We started out with that flat line game (against Australia in the round robin) and then really worked hard throughout the tournament. I have to give credit to our guys. They were scrappy, and our young ones showed a lot of composure through this game and our veteran leadership was able to keep us alive as well."
Veteran Mike Whitehead agrees: "After the first loss to Australia, we looked at each other in the locker room and said, "We need to man up. We need to bring it" and from there we started the wave and just rode that wave. We grew together as a team and we're a much better team now than when we started."
The bright spot for the Canadians was the performance of Zak Madell, Travis Murao, and Patrice Dagenais. When Jason Crone received a flagrant foul, Canada was forced to go 3 on 4 for 5 minutes. This lineup, however, performed admirably, keeping the score even despite being over manned.
Throughout the 2012 London Paralympics Canada consistently stepped up in close games. After falling 64-52 to Australia in the first match, they regrouped to beat Belgium 57-50, then to win two one-point victories against Sweden and the United States. While the silver medal may feel bitter sweet for now, this Canadian squad goes home on the back of their best performance since 2004.
Rookie Madell made a huge impact during the final game, again racking up the most points for Canadian side. Madell's performance may have a greater impact than he can imagine. Wheelchair rugby is growing in Canada and this silver medal will certainly increase attention on the Paralympics' only full contact sport.
"After every Paralympics, we see an influx of people inspired by the performances of our athletes who want to take part," said Cathy Cadieux, Executive Director of Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association. "Thanks to our Bridging the Gap program, we can support new athletes and help them connect with the sport they love, and thanks to our Podium Club program, we can support their development along the way. Wheelchair rugby is thriving in Canada and we're excited for what the future holds. We're certainly looking for more gems like Zak. It was great to see him come out there with such composure. But rugby is a team game and we're focused on making the best team possible."
As the youngest player on the team, Madell is taking all the attention in stride.
"Being 18 years old at my first Paralympics, playing alongside 11 experienced and strong players, and getting to play against the best teams in the world is a huge honor for me," he said.
Along with development programs put on by the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, the Government of Canada provides funding to Canadian Paralympic teams, including the Wheelchair Rugby squad, through the Own the Podium helping them deliver their best performances by investing in sport sciences, coaching and support staff.
The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State for Sport was on hand for Canada's silver medal match.
"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to congratulate our wheelchair rugby team on their silver medal win today," said the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport). "The team showed great determination and grit. It is my hope that their accomplishments will inspire others to participate in sport."
After the game, Minister Gosal presented Garett Hickling with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of being Canada's flag bearer during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"Garett is one of wheelchair rugby's greatest players and a true leader on this team. It was my honour to present him with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal," said Minister Gosal.
The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians. For more information on the Diamond Jubilee Medal, please visit www.gg.ca/diamondjubilee/.
Canada's track and field team recorded another top-eight performance on the final day of competition in London. The team closes out the Games with a total of nine medals, one new Paralympic Games record, seven new Canadian records, 28 top eight performances and 11 personal bests.
"Four years of preparation by our athletes has culminated in nine medals for Canada, and while we think it's important to live in the moment and enjoy our accomplishments, I know that many are already talking about how they can be even better in Rio" said Laurier Primeau, Paralympic Games Head Coach. "There's a lot of talk and appreciation for the incredible Games that London has hosted, for the unparalleled fan support, and for the great boost that the Paralympic movement has gotten in the media. On the other, thematic in our camp is the notion that we can learn from the London experience and move forward toward improved results in Brazil in 2016."
Day 10 of competition featured three athletes taking part in the T54 classification wheelchair marathon. Diane Roy of Sherbrook, Que., was the top Canadian finishing seventh overall in a time of 1:53:02.
"I did all that I could, this summer I put all of my focus into my top speed," said Roy. "So on this course to slow down in the curves and then accelerate again was exhausting, especially after ten days of competition."
In the men's T54 wheelchair marathon Josh Cassidy of Ottawa, Ont., placed 12th in a time of 1:33:06.
"This is the toughest course I've ever done but I gave it everything I had," said Cassidy.
After recovering from a crash and having to fix a flat tire, Michel Filteau of St. Jean Baptiste, Que., finished 26th in 1:47:39.
About the Canadian Paralympic Committee
The Canadian Paralympic Committee is a non-profit, private organization with 46 member sports organizations dedicated to strengthening the Paralympic movement. The Canadian Paralympic Committee's vision is to be the world's leading Paralympic nation. Its mission is to lead the development of a sustainable Paralympic sport system in Canada to enable athletes to reach the podium at the Paralympic Games. By supporting Canadian Paralympic athletes and promoting their success, the Canadian Paralympic Committee inspires all Canadians with a disability to get involved in sport through programs delivered by its member organizations.
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SOURCE CANADIAN PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE (CPC)