Canada win TO2015 wheelchair rugby gold in a thriller

The world number two side defeated rivals USA whilst Colombia secured bronze on a sensational final day. 15 Aug 2015
Canada's Zak Madell in the Toronto 2015 wheelchair rugby gold medal match against USA.
ⒸDan Galbraith/Canadian Paralympic Committee
By Nathan Bragg | For the IWRF

“To be honest, I don’t know if we could have done it without them.”

Fans were treated to an incredible final day of wheelchair rugby action at the Mississauga Sports Centre on Friday (14 August), as Canada claimed gold at home in a stunning comeback, while Colombia pulled off the surprising upset to win bronze.

Gold medal match: Canada 57 United States 54

You could not have scripted it better for the Canadians who came from behind to win the gold medal in front of a sold-out home crowd.

Canada got off to a disastrous start with four turnovers in the opening minute as the American low-pointers did a great job tying Zak Madell up high and forcing Canada into tough inbounds to secondary ball-handlers. The hosts were able to claw a couple back and went into the first intermission down 14-12.

In the second quarter the United States extended their lead and capitalised off a couple errant passes to go into the break four up and seemingly in control of the game.

However, the Canadians had other plans and got off to a great start in the third quarter behind a roaring crowd. Cody Caldwell scored seconds into the quarter and then Canada forced turnovers on USA’s first three possessions to tie the game.

“We came out fired up in that second half and that’s what ended up winning us the game,” said Madell on the four-goal swing that got them back in the game.

Madell played all 32 minutes and continued his MVP form with 34 goals while being all over the floor at the defensive end, pressuring the ball and dishing out hard hits. Trevor Hirschfield continued to demonstrate why he is regarded as the best 1.0 in the game, by finishing second in scoring for Canada with seven goals and often guarding higher-class players.

The Americans relied heavily on their depth and balance as none of their players saw more than 24 minutes on court. Josh Wheeler and Chuck Aoki led the American offense with 15 goals apiece and going all out defensively trying to frustrate Madell and create turnovers.

After Wednesday’s double-overtime loss, the Canadians flipped the script to get their Hollywood ending. After trailing for most of the game the Canadians managed to enter the fourth quarter with the score tied at 43.

Madell said that after Wednesday’s loss, he was looking to make amends.

“I certainly felt I had to redeem myself,” he said “I’d say we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”

Canada took care of business in the final frame as they forced the United States into a 40 second violation within the first three minutes. Late in the quarter, Canada’s Trevor Hirschfield stole the ball from the USA’s Josh Wheeler leading to an easy goal for Madell. This gave Canada a three-point lead that they would hold for the rest of the game, until the crowd erupted in cheers.

Madell spoke on the feeling of winning at home and the importance of the fans:

“To be honest, I don’t know if we could have done it without them.”

The win was Canada’s first against the United States in Canada and was the team’s first gold medal in major competition since 2002. It also ended the United States’ unbeaten streak in Americas Championship play dating back to the first event in 2007.

Canada officially qualifies for next summer’s Paralympics joining reigning Paralympic and world champions Australia, and host nation Brazil. The Unites States will have to earn a wild-card spot at the inaugural Paralympic Qualification Tournament to be held in early 2016 in a yet to be decided location.

The two rivals will meet again in October at the BT Wheelchair Rugby Challenge in London.

Bronze medal game: Colombia 50 Brazil 48

Colombia pulled off the upset over Brazil with an incredible performance and historic upset to take their first medal in international play, a bronze at the Parapan Am Games.

In the early stages both teams went goal for goal and traded leads as both pressed hard defensively. Both tried to force 12 second violations which resulted in a number of deep passes over the top of the defense for goals.

Colombia led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter, and the second proved much the same as both sides traded goals and pressed from end-to-end.

With the score tied late in the second, Colombia’s Edgar Vanegas Cardona spun Brazi’s Alexandre Giuriato at the goal line earning him a flagrant and an extended stay in the penalty box.

Unlike in the preliminary round when a flagrant foul destroyed Colombia’s momentum, this time around they persevered and thanks to some great teamwork from Jhon Orozco Nunez, Uriel Rodriguez Diaz and Carlos Neme Monotoya, the underdogs killed the penalty and battled through the adversity.

Going into the third quarter, Brazil had a one-goal lead, but once Vanegas Cardona was out of the penalty box Colombia were able to unleash their full press and started to generate turnovers. The press frustrated Brazil who had shown much better ball movement throughout the tournament then they did with a medal on the line.

Brazilian Coach Luis Pena said Colombia’s improvement on defense over the course of the tournament made the difference.

“Their defense, so much pressure, we tried to deal with it with our position and ball movement, but we didn’t succeed.

Colombian co-captain Carlos Neme Monotoya was ecstatic after finally claiming a medal, Colombia’s first in four Americas Championships. The win also marked Colombia’s first win over Brazil at a major competition

“We have a medal that we’ve always wanted, “ he said. “We believed in this and we accomplished it.”

Colombia will now move into the top 20 in the IWRF world rankings at #19 while Brazil will be disappointed with the result and fall to 20th with a year to go before they host the Paralympics.

“We expected to get a medal, but we have a year to get over it and prepare to compete with the best teams in the world,“ said Pena.