2014

Two gold, one bronze on Day 10 as Weldon & Bessette and men's wheelchair basketball team are Paralympic champions

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LONDON, Sept. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - Day 10 at the Paralympic Games started and ended with gold for Canada, as tandem cyclists Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC.) dominated the 80 km road race earlier in the day and the men's wheelchair basketball team took down the defending champions Australia 64-58 in the evening.

Swimmer Amber Thomas of Drayton Valley, Alberta made an incredible comeback to win the bronze medal in the women's 200-metre individual medley.

Weldon and Bessette crossed the finish line with a time of 2:08.26, with a lead of 34 seconds on their closest competitors and silver medallists, the tandem from Spain.

"I am very happy," said Weldon, a former cross-country skier turned cyclist after the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games. "Lyne and I are thrilled about this golden performance. It's good to end on a golden note. We had a fantastic race. Everyone was strong in the peloton. We had respect for everyone."

The two tandems, Canada and Spain, separated from the main peloton in the fifth of eight laps, and they managed to increase their lead throughout the rest of the race.

"Fortunately for us, no one followed our big attack but Spain," said Weldon. "We worked hard non-stop until the end. Anything can happen with bikes as we saw with the guys in the time trial [the men tandem punctured with 1 kilometre to go]."

"What we wanted to do was to be patient in the early laps," added Bessette. "At the mid-point, the goal was to make the race a little harder if nothing had happened."

The two fought hard together in the break, and ultimately, Canada's golden girls placed an attack on the very last lap, which proved to be the winning move.

"Although they did not have much experience, the Spanish tandem is very strong, so it was perfect for us. Then, it was up to me to decide when it was time to attack for the win," said Bessette.

"We are very happy with this particular medal. We were disappointed with the time trial so we wanted to take the win today. It ends well the Games," said Bessette, who also took the opportunity to announce her retirement from Para-cycling. "I wanted a happy ending on this last day. I can leave happy. It was a very rewarding experience, which grounded me as I worked with exceptional people."

The Canadian Men's Wheelchair Basketball Team won its third gold medal in the past four Paralympics on Saturday, beating the defending champions from Australia 64-58. Canada avenges the previous final in 2008 when Australia ended Canada's bid for a three-peat.

Canada concludes the tournament with a sterling 8-0 record and solidifies its dominance on the world's biggest stage. The victory marks Canada's 31st win since 2000, improving their overall record to 31 wins and 1 loss in the last twelve years. They have collected three gold and one silver medal in that time.

Patrick Anderson, of Fergus, Ontario, scored a game-high 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists for Canada. Number 12, in 2012, posted career numbers, finishing the tournament on top, or near the top of every offensive category. He averaged better than a double-double per game, and in eight games, totaled a tournament leading 200 points (25 points per game), 88 rebounds (11 rebounds per game) and 64 assists (8 assists per game).

Canada got off to a slow start in the gold medal game, and had trouble hitting buckets early on. They took their first lead at 4:12 of the second quarter and were shooting just 41% from the field. Similar to their semi-final victory over Great Britain, the third quarter proved to be Canada's best. They outscored Australia 20-15 in the third frame, before sealing the victory with stout defending late in the fourth quarter.

In the women's S11 200 IM for blind swimmers, Mary Fisher of New Zealand broke the world record clocking 2:46.91 for the gold medal.  Daniela Schulte of Germany was second in 2:49.57 and Thomas followed in 2:59.00 for her second medal of the Games.  She was second in Friday's 400 freestyle.

"I'm excited about the medal," said Thomas, 18.  "I was absolutely drained in the last 50 but I just kept going and going, pushing a little harder.  I was kind of feeling to the side where Daniela was, but I couldn't tell."

Thomas was seventh after the backstroke leg and sixth after butterfly then was involved in a heated battle with three other swimmers for the bronze.  It was only in the last 50-mettre freestyle that she broke free from the pack.

"It was the strongest race I think I could do," she said.  "I had a very good first four events but I was tired coming into these final two but still they were very successful.  I took four seconds off my personal best in this race and five seconds off of last night's race."

ATHLETICS

Canadian track and field athletes recorded a pair of top eight finishes today in athletics competition at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Keira-Lyn Frie of Saskatoon, Sask., and Nathan DeWitt of Surrey, B.C., finished sixth and eighth respectively in the wheelchair T54 and T34 100-metres. 

Frie took sixth in the women's T54 100-metres in 17.26 seconds. "This was a tough start, but I got up to speed in the end," said Frie. "It was OK, I'm looking forward to learning from this experience."

Frie wraps up her first Paralympics Games with three top eight finishes. She also finished eighth in the wheelchair 1500 and 5000-metres. 

DeWitt was eighth overall in the T34 wheelchair 100-metres in a time of 17.36.

"I'm very happy with my race, all I wanted was to make the finals, and I did," said DeWitt. "I pushed as hard as I could. You can't be disappointed with that." 

The men's T53-T54 wheelchair 4x400-metres relay team of Alexandre Dupont of Bradwell, Sask., Brent Lakatos of Dorval, Que., Colin Mathieson of Winnipeg, Man., and Curtis Thom of Mississauga, Ont., clocked 3:17.50 for second in their heat. The time was not enough to advance to the final and they finished fifth overall.

Track and field competition at the 2012 Paralympic Games wraps up tomorrow with three Canadians competing in the wheelchair marathon. Diane Roy of Sherbrooke, Que., Josh Cassidy of Ottawa, Ont., and Michel Filteau of St. Jean Baptisite, Que., race at 11:30.a.m. local time (6:30 a.m. eastern time). 

CYCLING

In the women's 80km road race won by Weldon and Bessette, the Dutch team finished in third place, edging the second Canadian tandem of Geneviève Ouellet and Émily Roy in a nail-biting finish for the bronze.

"I'm glad with the fourth position in a race that our teammates won," said Ouellet. "We gave everything we had, and it is still surprising for a small tandem like ours, not very powerful, to finish second in a sprint for the bronze."

In the men's tandem race, Canada's tandem of Daniel Chalifour and Alexandre Cloutier, the reigning Canadian Champions in the event, finished their race in ninth spot.

The tandem rode safely within the peloton for the first 88 km of 104 km, and unfortunately missed the attack that will eventually prove to be the winning move.

The road race for the tricycle was also held today. Toronto's Shelley Gautier was lapped and did not finish the race, while Marie-Eve Croteau did not start as she is still recovering from an injury.

The team relay was also held to end these Paralympic Games. Canada's team comprised of Robert Labbé (H1), Mark Beggs (H2) and Mark Ledo (H3) placed fifth.

SWIMMING

The Canadian Para swimming team ends the competition with an impressive 16 medals (four gold, nine silver and three bronze).

"Our target was 15 podiums and we got 16, this is great," said Canada's head coach Craig McCord of Vancouver.  "I'm so proud of the team, they dealt with their schedules the way it rolled out whether their best events were early on or as in the case for Amber, later in the meet."

In the women's S13 100 breaststroke final for visually impaired swimmers, triple medallist Valerie Grand'Maison of Montreal was also involved in a four-way battle for the bronze and took sixth spot.  She clocked a personal best 1:22.16 and was only 0.66 seconds from third spot.

"I don't want to know how close I was," said Grand'Maison, who won gold and broke the world record in the 200 IM on Friday.  "I'm just really pleased with the time.  I did this race for fun so I could enjoy the moment.  It was a tough year in preparation with these Games and I'm extremely proud of those medals.  They are worth so much to me."

In the men's S11 200 IM, Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver possibly raced for the last at time at the Paralympic Games finishing seventh in 2:30.22.  A four-time Paralympian, Tildesley deemed the London Games as his favourite.

"I had the most fun here out of all of them," he said.  "Even though I didn't win any medals, it was just an incredibly joyful experience. When they put that accreditation on it was such a good feeling.  This is where I should be.  There was no anxiety or nervousness."

While veterans like triple medallist Benoit Huot of Montreal and Grand'Maison excelled at these Games, youngsters such as Thomas and double silver medallist Brianna Nelson of Victoria leave no doubt Canada is going to have a strong Para swimming team for many more years.

"We always said we were here not only for London, but also for Rio," said McCord.  "Canada is really well set up for those Games as well."

Summer Mortimer, 19, of Ancaster, Ont., was Canada's most successful Para swimmer at the Games with four medals including two gold.  Huot and Grand'Maison added three each.  All four gold were won in world record time.

WHEELCHAIR RUGBY

Canada defeated rival United States 50-49 in today's semi-final wheelchair rugby match at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. After taking an early lead, Canada was up by six points at the half. With only 1:46 remaining in the match, the U.S. tied it up for the first time, drawing gasps from a packed arena.

In an unimaginable final minute, U.S. player Chuck Aoki scored to tie it at 49 per side and allowed Canada the opportunity to make a final substitution replacing rookie Zak Madell with veteran Garett Hickling. With the clock winding down, Hickling and Mike Whitehead stole the ball forcing the U.S. to draw two defensive fouls in a matter of seconds in an attempt to regain possession. With less than a second left, Hickling crossed the goal line to give Canada the win.

"The key was just our four guys coming out very strong, ready to play, on fire," said Hicking. "We had a plan, we had a strategy. I think the USA was shell shocked by us. We stuck to our plan and guys continued to work and do what was needed."

"We started off really confident," said key player Trevor Hirschfield. "We knew we had to put it on their throats early and push hard. What we did in that first quarter was amazing. We knew they weren't going to give up. They're the States. They kept fighting and fighting. But in the end, we showed up. We pulled that one out."

Head coach Kevin Orr was less demure in his praise for his players.

"When you get a guy like Garett Hickling, he's going to battle for you. That's the kind of leadership you need on a team. Garett's a warrior. That's what sport's all about. It's a war. You've got to have warriors to go out there and our guys went out and that."

On low-pointer Hirschfield, coach Orr was particularly pleased. "I think Trevor Hirschfield was the reason why we won this," he said.  "He's the heart and soul. He was determined to win."

Zak Madell led in scoring for Team Canada with 14 points, followed by Trevor Hirschfield with 11 plus a team point, Mike Whitehead with 11, Garett Hickling with seven and David Willsie, Ian Chan and Fabian Lavoie with two points each.

This loss will mark only the second time the U.S. has missed out on a gold medal in international competition in the history of the sport. They were defeated by Canada in the 2002 World Championship final and again defeated by Canada in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, as captured in the Academy Award nominated documentary, Murderball.

In an ironic twist, Canada's head coach Kevin Orr was the coach for Team USA during the Athens Games.

"Winning this game is a hard emotion to describe," he said after the match. "When we were coming out, the USA guys were chirping in the tunnel and our guys were just staring straight ahead, focused on what they had to do. The key to the game was focus. We came out there and did what we had to do."

"We came here to win a gold medal. It doesn't matter if we're underdogs today, tomorrow or forever, we came here to win," he added.

Canada will be making their third Paralympic gold medal match appearance, having last sought the venerable prize in 2004 against New Zealand where they obtained silver. Prior to Athens, the last time Canada competed in the gold medal final was the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games, when wheelchair rugby was still a demonstration sport.

Canada will face Australia tomorrow, September 10 at 14:15 London time in the gold medal game. This will be the second time Canada faces Australia in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Canada lost to them in their first match in London, 52-64.

Looking at their chances tomorrow, Team Canada is using the experience gained from their earlier round robin match against Australia.

"We've got to come out the same way we came out today. We've got to keep firing. Keep pushing," said Hirschfield. "They've got one guy, so we've got to get him tired and make him work for every goal end to end."

"Our starting lineup's changed. Our young guys have improved drastically and we're going to come out ready to send a statement," added Hickling.

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)



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