“Do I feel like one of the youngsters? I wish. But I do get energy from the younger guys and their dedication to pushing and training hard every day."
Wheelchair basketball legend Patrick Anderson is back on the international scene after six years. This time, the sport’s greatest player will take on the “father figure” role for Canada ahead of the 2018 World Championships.
The four-time Paralympian will pass down the knowledge he has gained from more than two decades in the sport to the younger members of the squad, as they gear up for the Worlds from 16-25 August in Hamburg, Germany. Canada are attempting to return to the top of the podium for the first time since 2006.
Although Anderson is past his prime, he still has a hunger to win.
“The older I get, the more I appreciate the sacrifices that others make so that we can wear that jersey at all,” Anderson said. “It makes me want to do my best, more than ever. Winning another gold would feel like my first time. It feels like it's been so long.”
It has been long.
The 39-year-old has taken several extended breaks from the game, and his last major international competition was in 2012, when he helped his country win the Paralympic title in London.
Anderson never officially retired but removed himself from selection for Rio 2016, where Canada finished second to last in the standings.
In August 2017, Wheelchair Basketball Canada announced Anderson was back on the national team, as they claimed second place at the Americas Cup in Cali, Colombia.
Anderson was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, but he admits getting back to a high-performance level has been challenging.
“I have to pace my training more wisely, and pay more attention to all aspects of being an athlete,” Anderson said. “It's still a work in progress. I've always been a pretty focused and intense practice player but it takes more than that as you get older.
“Do I feel like one of the youngsters? I wish. But I do get energy from the younger guys and their dedication to pushing and training hard every day.
“It's going to a long summer of training and travel, but I'm looking forward to being back on the court with the world's best.”
Hamburg 2018 will be Anderson’s fourth World Championships. He made his Worlds debut 20 years ago in 1998, when Canada took bronze, before leading the team to gold at the 2006 edition. A silver medal at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics followed, but Anderson did not defend Canada’s world title in 2010, choosing instead to take a break from the sport.
It could be easy to spend too much time reflecting on such an illustrious career, but Anderson says he is trying not to dwell on his past achievements.
“It's a temptation that distracts me from focusing on this last leg of my competitive career. But since you brought it up…honestly, when I look back it's just a blur. It all happened so fast. Canada had a great run. But it doesn't have to be over yet, right?”