By Mary Beth Walker
The Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team is looking for their third consecutive gold at the upcoming Beijing Paralympic Games this September. The team enters the Games ranked number one in the world and with two consecutive Paralympic gold medals under its belt.
“We are excited to be going for a third consecutive gold medal,” said team head coach Mike Frogely, who has guided the team through the last four Paralympic Games. “It is great motivation to give us something to focus on.”
Frogeely says the success of the team derives from a combination of factors.
“The team comes first and it really is a complete team effort in everything we do,” said Frogley. “This means we have a really comprehensive team effort that encompasses the athletes, the coaches, the support staff as well as family and friends back home. Our achievements have always gone beyond the five people on the court at any given time.”
He added the team is never content with their current performance.
“We see where things are and look ahead at where they are going,” he said. “We always want to be in front of the pack and lead the evolution. Ensuring we don’t become stagnant in what we are doing has allowed us to not only be successful, but to continually redefine what being successful is.”
Player Chris Stoutenburg has been with the team for its last two Paralympic gold medal victories.
“I am preparing the same as I have for my last two previous sets of Games and remaining focused on the competition,” said Stoutenburg. “All outside variables change, but there is one thing that will always remain – the game of basketball is sometimes very complex but if you can always remember to keep one simple rule that will never change, no matter what the distractions are, is that whoever puts the ball through their opponent’s’ hoop more will win, and winning is what I am focussing on.”
Stoutenburg said the team’s biggest competitor is expected to be the United States.
“We have fallen short in a few close matches with the USA, but we feel we are peaking at the right time,” he said.
Canada will also be sending 12 women wheelchair basketball players to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. They too have an impressive reputation.
The women’s team took bronze at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games following three consecutive Paralympic gold medal wins.
The women’s team includes athlete Misty Thomas, who competed with the Canadian women’s basketball team at the 1984 Olympic Games. This will be her first Paralympic Games; making her the first Canadian athlete to have competed at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The team will also have an athlete in two separate sports; Tracey Ferguson will compete in athletics (T54) and with the women’s basketball team. She has competed at the last four Paralympic Games with the basketball team, but this will be her first time competing at the Paralympic Games in athletics.
The Paralympic Games will kick of Saturday, September 6 in Beijing, China. More information on the upcoming Paralympic Games and the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball team can be found at www.paralympic.ca.