While they may not have gone all the way at the 2014 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Odense, Denmark, Canada caused the biggest upset of the tournament by overcoming arch rivals USA in the semi-finals, to make it into No. 32 in the Top 50 Moments of 2014.
The USA was undefeated heading into the finals with no team in pool B getting within 17 goals of them.
On the other hand, Canada suffered a loss to Australia and overcame Great Britain by one goal in overtime to qualify second in pool A.
The semi-finals shared a lot of similarities to London 2012 where Canada faced the USA, while Japan and Australia battled for the other place in the gold medal game.
Canadian high-pointer Zak Madell had an amazing tournament leading into the semi-finals but took his game to another level against the USA.
They knew they were underdogs heading to the match but Canada had the belief that they could put in a good performance.
“We always go into matches confidently, we never want to start a match already at a mental disadvantage and we believe we can compete with any team in the world,” Madell said.
Madell also admitted the 63-40 defeat in their previous meeting with the USA at the Americas Zone Championships gave them extra motivation.
“As soon as that game finished our team vowed to keep it in the back of our minds while we trained and prepared for the following year and got ready for the World Championships,” he said.
A tight first quarter saw the scores locked at 14-14 as neither team looked like making a mistake.
Canada knew they were right in it at the main break as they managed to maintain their performance and remain level at 26-26.
“We had been in that same position against them before, and never lost hope even if it was a two or three point game at times,” Madell said.
USA then edged in front by one goal at the end of the third and didn't look like making many mistakes, Canada knew they had to dig really deep if they were to get over the line.
Madell recalls what head coach Kevin Orr had to say at the all important final break.
“He told me what he always does ‘Hey kid, go out there and have fun’ and that is why I play the sport and what helps me keep on pushing in close and intense games like that,” Madell said.
The USA clung onto the lead for the entire final quarter and looked destined to book their spot in the gold medal game until a moment of brilliance from Madell with just seconds remaining forced it into overtime.
“Scoring with such little time left definitely gave us a boost of energy leading into the overtime period,” Madell said.
Canada then went to its bench for the crucial tip-off in the overtime period as they substituted the extremely experienced Garret Hickling onto the court.
Hickling secured possession for the Canadians which gave them the advantage for the upcoming three minutes of play.
“We had always planned on having Garret come out to win a tip in overtime, that opening possession is often what wins the extra periods,” Madell said.
The momentum swing that the final goal and the overtime tip-off provided Canada was the difference between the two sides as they eventually grinded the USA down for a thrilling 59-56 win.
Madell credited each and every one of his teammates on the victory as they all played their part at some stage during the game.
The win goes down as one of the most satisfying in Madell’s short career along with the triumph over the USA in the London 2012 semi-final.
This match winning performance also led to Madell being awarded the tournament’s most valuable player title which is something he will treasure for the rest of his career.
“It was absolutely incredible, especially considering the competition I was up against. All of the best players in the world were at this tournament, so to be selected as MVP was truly an honour,” he said.
Australia was too strong in the final but the silver medallists improved their ranking to No.2 in the world.
Visit the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014 campaign page for more information