Canada’s wheelchair rugby roster has been set for Rio 2016, where the team will go for their first ever Paralympic gold.
The 12-person squad was named Monday at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C. by the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association.
Nine of the 12 athletes on the team were members of the 2012 Canadian lineup that won silver in London. Canada also captured wheelchair rugby silver at the 1996 and 2004 Games.
Miranda Biletski, the lone woman on the team, is making her Paralympic debut later this year. If Team Canada wins, the 27-year-old from Victoria, B.C. will be the first woman from any nation to earn a wheelchair rugby gold medal.
Also making their Paralympics debut for Canada, in addition to Biletski, is Cody Caldwell (Peterborough, Ont.) and Byron Green (Courtenay, B.C.)
Team Canada is considered a favourite to win in Brazil after they captured gold at the 2015 World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge and the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games. They also hold the No.1 spot in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation power rankings.
Patrice Dagenais and Trevor Hirschfield will serve as co-captains of Team Canada. Dagenais, a resident of Embrun, Ont., represented Canada at the 2012 London Paralympics. Hirschfield, a native of Parksville, B.C., has been a member of the Canadian team since 2006.
The following is an interview with Duncan Campbell, one of the founders of wheelchair rugby — a sport originally called “Murderball.” In this conversation with Report on Rio’s Quinton Amundson, Campbell sheds light on how the game was founded, the evolution of the chair, the importance of the 2005 documentary, “Murderball,” to the popularization of the sport, and more.
Rounding out the Canadian roster is Ian Chan (Richmond, B.C.), Fabien Lavoie (Quebec City, Que.), Travis Muraro (Vancouver, B.C.), Patrice Simard (Quebec City, Que.) Mike Whitehead (Windsor,Ont.), and David Willsie (Dorchester, Ont.)
Kevin Orr (Pelham, Alabama.) will coach Team Canada. Before becoming coach of the Canadian team in 2009, the 47-year-old coached the U.S. wheelchair rugby team.
The eight-team wheelchair rugby Paralympic tournament will begin Sept.14. It as announced last week that Canada was drawn into Pool A with Australia, Great Britain and Brazil. The countries that will battle for Pool B supremacy are the U.S., Japan, Sweden and France.
“Canada’s wheelchair rugby athletes have been tenacious and focused on pushing every day toward the top of the podium at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games,” said Carla Qualtrough, Canada’s Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
”Congratulations to all of the athletes named today to Team Canada and thank you to the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, to the coaches, and to dedicated family members who have supported and encouraged these athletes on their path to Rio.”