Canada not ready to settle for second best at Worlds27.02.2018
Wheelchair rubgy expectations remain high despite not medalling at Rio 2016
The side hopes to go one better than its performance from 2014 with gold on mind at the 2018 IWRF (International Wheelchair Rugby Federation) World Championships in Sydney, Australia, from 5-10 August.
Canada qualified for the Worlds by finishing second at the 2017 IWRF Americas Championship in Asuncion, Paraguay.
“I think our showing in Rio has pushed me to work harder to become a better athlete and leader to help Canada reach the podium again. As a leader, I feel that it is my responsibility to lead by example on and off the court."
Hirschfield has experienced a rollercoaster ride in the past four years as leader of the Canadian side, starting with the silver medal at the World Championships in Odense, Denmark, in 2014, before going on to capture the No.1 ranking heading into Rio 2016.
However, Canada learned the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the sport, tumbling in the semi-finals against the USA, before falling to Japan in the bronze medal match to miss the podium at the Paralympics for just the second time in their history.
“Of course, not medalling in Rio was a disappointment, especially after securing the No. 1 seed a year earlier in London,” Hirschfield said.
“But that's sport, sometimes it will rip your heart right out.
“I think our showing in Rio has pushed me to work harder to become a better athlete and leader to help Canada reach the podium again.
“As a leader, I feel that it is my responsibility to lead by example on and off the court.
“It is important to educate our next generation of athletes about our team culture, and what it means to wear the maple leaf and represent Canada.”
Hirschfield is one of the world’s best 1.0 classified players and will again play a key role in defence and on the inbound for Canada.
The 34-year-old admitted Canada is preparing a little differently for the Worlds this time around, using multiple world-class club tournaments to increase athletes’ quality time on court.
And he will have to get also work to gel with a new-look team.
“I would be inaccurate to compare Canada’s 2014 Worlds team with the one that will represent the maple leaf in 2018,” Hirschfield said.
“The second place finish in 2014 wasn't our goal, but it did serve as a great learning experience for our athletes’ development.
“The level of competition will provide valuable experience for our newer athletes leading into Tokyo 2020.
“We will be an exciting team to watch at [the] Worlds this year.”
Canada will play in a number of tournaments between now and the Worlds with the most important being the Canada Cup, in Richmond, British Columbia, from 12-17 June.
This will be the team’s last tune-up before heading to Sydney, facing eight top–ranked nations to gauge how they will measure up at the World Championships.