With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.
The Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team enters the 2016 Rio Games as the world’s most decorated Paralympic program over the past two decades.
Beginning with a gold medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Canada solidified their powerhouse status by repeating at champions at the 2004 Athens Games. After dropping to the silver medal position in 2008 with a loss to Australia, Canada got their revenge at the most recent Paralympics in London with their third gold in four opportunities.
We’re now seeing a period of transition, however, for the Canadian squad and head coach Steve Bialowas. Following some retirements from the national roster, team Canada is split down the middle with six Paralympic veterans and six athletes making their debut.
Meet the team:
Adam Lancia and team co-captain David Eng enter the Games looking for a third gold medal. Both veterans of three prior Paralympics, Lancia and Eng will be leaned on in mentorship roles by the younger players and are expected to lead the team come tip-off.
The same can be said for co-captain Bo Hedges, who will be appearing in his third Games, and Abdi Dini. Tyler Miller and Chad Jassman also carry Paralympic experience on this roster and will be looked to for prominent contributions.
On the other side of the coin are young, rising players like Saskatchewan’s Nik Goncin, who could make some noise as a Paralympic rookie. Newfoundland’s Liam Hickey is both the youngest player on the roster and Canada’s only Atlantic Canadian on the men’s team, while Ben Moronchuk, Deion Greene, Peter Won, and Jonathan Vermette will be playing in their first Games.
Along with the personnel changes, the Canadians have overhauled their on-court attack in recent years and will enter Rio playing a different style of basketball. These adjustments, they hope, will help them to stay on the podium while competing nations look for advantages around them.
The men’s team was still experimenting with potential lineup combinations at the recent Continental Clash exhibition tournament in Great Britain. Canada went 0-5 and started a different combination of players in all five games.
For a defending gold medal squad, the Canadian’s are facing unusually tough odds. The high rate of roster turnover positions team Canada very well for 2020 and 2024, but this September, they’ll need to play their best basketball to challenge for a medal. They’ve certainly got the veteran leadership and young talent to do so.
The 12-team tournament consists of two six-team divisions, with the top four teams in each division moving on to the knockout rounds. Tournament play begins on September 8th.
Photos: Dan Galbraith, Canadian Paralympic Committee