Canada’s sixth man: The home court advantage

There was only one word that Canada’s wheelchair basketballer Janet McLachlan could use to describe how she will feel when she takes to the court for Friday’s (20 June) World Championships opening match against Japan in front of friends and family - “Special”. 17 Jun 2014
A picture of a woman in a wheelchair shooting between two defenders during a wheelchair basketball match.

Janet McLachlan takes a shot at the hoop during the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where Canada finished sixth.

ⒸLieven Coudenys
By Joel Mackenzie | for the IPC

“Anytime you pull on that jersey it means a lot, but to be able to do that at a World Championships in front of family and friends will be a special moment”.

The Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada will play host to the women’s 2014 IWBF World Championships and as the Canadian veteran of two Paralympic Games enters her second worlds, she says she saw firsthand the positive effects that playing in front of a home crowd had on the Great Britain athletes at London 2012.

“If you look at the results from all the Great Britain athletes at the Paralympic and Olympic Games, they all had tremendous results,” said McLachlan.

“Anytime you pull on that jersey it means a lot, but to be able to do that at a World Championships in front of family and friends will be a special moment”.

Canada is no stranger to the podium at World Championships, having won bronze in 2010, and the 32-year-old is confident the team can improve on their sixth place finish in London.

“Yeah, I think we are a better team than sixth place,” she said.

“Competition runs much deeper now than it has in previous years and there are a lot more teams pushing for those top spots but this team feels really good.”

The large geographical area of Canada presents many unique challenges that their European counterparts do not face but McLachlan says that the team has left nothing to chance and is well prepared heading into Friday’s opener.

“Similar to somewhere like Australia, Canada is a big country so we don’t always have a lot of opportunity to train or play together.

“Everyone has been working really hard on our own though and we’ve been able to spend a lot of time together recently and I think we’ve really improved as a unit since London”.

The Canadian six footer is a nightmare for opposition teams to defend and one of the world’s most prolific scorers.

She topped the tournament for scoring at the 2010 World Championships and again during the London 2012 Paralympic Games. If Canada are going to catapult themselves back into medal contention during these World Championships, it will be off the back of a fit McLachlan.

Injuries and surgery kept her out of the game for parts of 2013 but after another successful season with the Trier Dolphins in Germany, the Canadian forward is confident she is back to playing her best basketball.

Canada has a very proud and historically very successful wheelchair basketball programme and while they’re well prepared to return to the podium at the 2014 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships, McLachlan says they won’t be relying on their ‘sixth man’ in Toronto.

“Once you get on to the court you forget all about who is sitting in the stands watching you and it’s all about the basketball.”

Canada’s World Championships campaign starts this Friday (20 June) against Japan.