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Hedges, Dandeneau on Canadian wheelchair basketball teams headed to Lima

Bo Hedges. Wheelchair Basketball Canada photo

The 24 wheelchair basketball players who will compete for gold for Canada at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games next month have been selected and there will be two very familiar names to northern B.C. residents.

Bo Hedges, from Fort St. John, will be part of the men’s team while Kady Dandeneau, from Pender Island but who played for the UNBC Timberwolves, will play on the women’s team.

Wheelchair Basketball Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced the men’s and women’s teams on Thursday.

Lima 2019 is a direct qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for Canada. The men’s team must finish in the Top 3 to earn a spot in next year’s Paralympics, while the women must finish in the Top 2.

“Congratulations to all 24 supremely well-deserving individuals who have been selected to play for Canada in Lima,” said Stephanie Dixon, chef de mission of the Lima 2019 Canadian Parapan Am Team. “I know how important these Games are for our wheelchair basketball teams and the entire Canadian Parapan Am Team will be behind you. We know you are ready for the challenge, and I am so excited to support you and cheer you on.”

Hedges first discovered wheelchair basketball at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. He later witnessed a demonstration game in his native Fort St. John, prompting him to form a local club team of his own. He began playing wheelchair basketball competitively in 1996 and has since become a key component of the Canadian national team program, as well as a powerhouse British Columbia provincial team.

Hedges got his first taste of international competition with stints for Team Canada at the world junior championships in 1997 and 2001, at which the Canucks won back-to-back gold medals. He secured a roster spot on the Senior Men’s National Team in 2007 and captured a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in 2008. Four years later, he won Paralympic gold at London 2012.

Kady Dandeneau. By Hawkeye7 commons.wikimedia.org

Dandeneau began playing basketball for the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves in 2007/08. On January 23, 2010, with an average of 18.3 points per game, she was leading scorer in the BC Colleges Athletic Association, when she collided with an opposition player and suffered what was later determined to most likely have been a partial tear in her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), according to her Wikipedia page. This caused her to miss the next five games, but she returned for the last two games of the season, wearing a brace, and shooting an impressive 26 points in the final match. Then, during practice before the playoffs, she re-injured her knee. It was subsequently determined that this time she had torn her ACL completely, damaged her medial collateral ligament, and fractured her femur. She had four operations on her knee, but developed a bone defect as a result of fracture in the femur.

In 2015, Dandeneau was introduced to wheelchair basketball by the former Canadian national women’s team coach, Tim Frick. She played for the BC Breakers and the BC Royals. In 2017, she was part of the national team at the Americas Cup in Cali, Colombia, where Team Canada was placed first. In August 2018, she was part of Team Canada at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Hamburg.

The Canadian men, silver medallists at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games, finished 12th overall at the world championships last year. They are the third-highest ranked team from the Americas, behind USA and Argentina.

The squad will be led in Lima by veteran co-captains Hedges and David Eng, as well as Patrick Anderson who is arguably the best wheelchair basketball player ever. Eight players on the team are Paralympians, with five (Anderson, Eng, Hedges, Jassman, Miller) owning Paralympic medals. Three athletes (Higgins, Melymick, Mutware) will be making their multi-sport Games debut, with one (Mutware) also making his international debut for Canada.

“Wheelchair basketball is a great spectator sport that is experiencing rapid growth and gaining popularity here in Canada and around the world,” said Eng. “This makes it that much harder for teams to qualify for Tokyo 2020, and with limited qualification spots on the line, the matchups in Lima are going to be intense and fierce. As athletes, as competitors, and as a team fortunate to represent our great country, we are hungry for the opportunity to perform in that kind of environment and earn our place on top of the podium.”

The Canadian women finished fifth at the world championships last year, where they were the top nation from the Americas. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Canada was also fifth overall, but second in the Americas behind the USA who won gold.

Arinn Young and Cindy Ouellet will co-captain the team in Lima, where the squad will feature seven Paralympians (Gavel, Hawtin, Jacques, Ouellet, Lalonde, Steeves, Young) and five newcomers to multi-sport Games (Bérubé, Dandeneau, Lai, Llanes, Tessier). Canada won the silver medal in the women’s wheelchair basketball tournament four years ago at the Parapan Am Games.

“Competing for and representing your country in a sport you love is a dream shared by many athletes, but few get to do it at a high level,” said Ouellet. “That is why it really is a privilege and an honour for us to put on the Canadian jersey and to showcase wheelchair basketball. On the women’s team, we are 12 athletes that have worked extremely hard to make our country proud, and we look forward to exposing more Canadians to the game which is physical, fast-paced, and fun to watch.”

In both men’s and women’s action in Lima, Canada will compete in Group A for the preliminary round alongside Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. The top four finishers in the women’s event will move onto the semifinals, while the men’s tournament will see all eight nations re-seeded for the quarter-finals.

Canada’s schedule is as follows:

  • August 24: Canada vs. Colombia WOMEN
  • August 25: Canada vs. Colombia MEN
  • August 25: Canada vs. Argentina WOMEN
  • August 26: Canada vs. Mexico MEN
  • August 27: Canada vs. Mexico WOMEN
  • August 27: Canada vs. Argentina MEN
  • August 28: Quarter-finals MEN
  • August 29: Semifinals WOMEN
  • August 30: Semifinals MEN
  • August 30: Gold and bronze medal games WOMEN
  • August 31: Gold and bronze medal games MEN

“Lima 2019 is a critical competition and good test for us on the road to Tokyo 2020,” said Jeff Dunbrack, high performance director, Wheelchair Basketball Canada. “Both teams have really been developing and growing over the last year, and I’m excited to see all the hard work that the athletes, coaches, and staff are putting in each and every day pay off with strong performances. With an increased emphasis on performance preparations and laser sharp focus on qualifying, we will be ready to compete and earn our spot at the Paralympic Games.”

The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games will take place August 23 to September 1 in Peru and will surpass Toronto 2015 as the largest Parapan Am Games ever with a record 1,850 athletes set to participate. Canada is expecting to send a team of approximately 152 athletes and competition partners in 13 sports. The Canadian Paralympic Committee will announce the official full team heading to the Games later this month.

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