Paralympic Games
7-18 September

Canada’s Ferguson not focusing on Rio 2016 just yet

The veteran wheelchair basketball player is first hoping to qualify for next year’s Paralympics with success at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. 15 Apr 2015
Imagen
Tracey Ferguson #12 of Team Canada puts up a two pointer in Semi Final action against Team Netherlands at the 2014 Women's World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Toronto, Canada.

Tracey Ferguson #12 of Team Canada puts up a two pointer in Semi Final action against Team Netherlands at the 2014 Women's World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Toronto, Canada.

ⒸWheelchair Basketball Canada
By Megan Mindel | for the IPC

“We know that we are twelve deep and any one of us, at any moment, can be called upon to contribute in some way and everyone is ready. I really think that and staying family [are our greatest strengths].”

With just over one year to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Canadian wheelchair basketball veteran Tracey Ferguson admits there are other challenges to conquer first, starting with the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

This August Team Canada will line-up on home territory at the Parapans aiming to qualify for Rio 2016 and also win gold, just like they did last year at the World Championships.

Tracey Ferguson said: “Of course it’s in the back of everyone’s mind, but the reality is we’ve got a few steps to go before we get to Rio. We’ve got to qualify. We have it on the calendar and we know when it is, but there are so many weeks leading up to it where we need to put in the work every day. We can’t look past the Parapan Ams, because if you don’t qualify you don’t get the privilege of playing at the Paralympics. We need to make sure we are focused on each step as we go.”

Taking things one step at a time is exactly what Team Canada has been doing since a disappointing sixth place finish at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

“We [Team Canada] had some meetings, and really talked about it [London 2012] quite honestly and said, ‘What is it we need to do? What is it we need to fix to get better?” That took a lot on us to have that reflection and honest, hard conversation,” said Ferguson, a six-time Paralypian who won gold in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Since that meeting the Canadian team has enjoyed great success. At the 2014 International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) World Championships in Toronto, the team secured gold. They went 4-1 in pool play, with only one loss to Germany, the Paralympic champions. After a tough quarter-final against Australia and a one-point semi-final victory over the Netherlands, Canada met with Germany again in the gold medal match.

“I think it was actually quite comforting to play Germany in a weird way,” said Ferguson. “They beat us in pool play and we had played them a number of times. We actually played them five times in May [2014] in Winnipeg. We lost every single game, but a bunch of games were one point or three points, so we knew we were right at that edge, we just knew we had to get over that hump.”

Team Canada did get over that hump, defeating Germany 54-50, a win that moved them up to number one in the world rankings.

In the months since that final match Ferguson and Team Canada have not rested.The team played in the Osaka Cup in February against Great Britain, Australia, and Japan, held a team camp in March, and in May, with the support of Sport Canada and On the Podium, will be working through a three weeks on, one week off schedule up until the Parapan American Games, 7-15 August.

Even when the team is not together their training intensity does not waiver.

“Whether they are at the University of Alabama, or my teammates in Germany, or Toronto, or Vancouver, or Saskatchewan, I just know they are working hard because we’ve talked about it and communicated, so that when I’m in the gym I’m working just as hard if not harder than my teammates so I don’t let them down.”

Ferguson noted that that ferocity and individual players all buying in to the team system are among Team Canada’s greatest strengths.

“We know that we are twelve deep and any one of us, at any moment, can be called upon to contribute in some way and everyone is ready. I really think that and staying family [are our greatest strengths].”

Wheelchair basketball is one of 15 sports that will be played at the Parapan American Games that will feature 1,600 athletes from 28 countries.

Tickets are now on-sale here.