Toronto 2015: Wheelchair rugby finals preview14.08.2015
The USA and Canada will play for the first-ever wheelchair rugby Parapan Am gold medal.
Canada will seek revenge on the USA in Friday’s (14 August) wheelchair rugby finals after falling to their rivals in Wednesday’s thrilling double-overtime clash at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. The bronze-medal match will feature South American rivals Brazil and Colombia facing off at the Mississauga Sports Centre.
Gold medal game: Canada vs USA
It has been 10 years since the Oscar-nominated film “Murderball” was released, and the rivalry at the core of the film is still alive in wheelchair rugby.
The two sides have had plenty of close games in recent years, including overtime games at the 2014 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) World Championships in Denmark and, most recently, the preliminary play at Toronto 2015 on Wednesday, when the Americans held on for the 60-59 win.
Both teams are known for their depth and have given all their players court time leading up to today. But that could change with a gold medal and qualification for next year’s Paralympics is at stake.
“What people are going to see [Friday] is what rugby deserves,” said US captain Jason Regier.
Prolific high-pointers in Canada’s Zak Madell and the USA’s Chuck Aoki have led their respective teams in scoring during round-robin play and have also been leaders on defense. On Wednesday, the US frequently double teamed Madell with either two 2.0s or Aoki and Chad Cohn, a very strong 1.0. Expect that trend to continue on Friday.
The Canadians will likely want to use their strong low-pointers to create mismatches. Trevor Hirschfield is known as the best 1.0 in the world and gives Canada plenty of options, whether they go with a high-low or a balanced line.
The USA’s Josh Wheeler and Eric Newby have stepped into key roles during this week and should see more playing time in the finals.
Ernie Chun gives the US a different look as a 2.0 that uses a defensive chair, making him an incredibly difficult picker to get off of due to his strength and size.
Byron Green could be a real X-factor for Canada, as he has logged heavy minutes throughout the tournament. As their only 0.5, Green is necessary for the Canadian high-low to get on court. Look for him to set plenty of screens for Madell and Mike Whitehead.
Bronze medal game: Brazil vs Colombia
Brazil will come into this game with confidence after beating Colombia by 12 in preliminary play. But the Colombians have improved as the tournament has gone on, and they have a player in 3.5 Jhon Orozco who will require multiple defenders to contain.
The Brazilians will look to spread the floor with their balanced lineups and emphasis on a strong passing game. They have had multiple contributors throughout the tournament, especially from their bench.
“We expect to play better than [Thursday] and win the bronze medal,” said Jose Higino after Brazil lost their semifinal to Canada 62-38.
Both Brazil and Colombia like to play an aggressive pressing style, so expect the match to be full of hard hits.
Colombia benefits from the speed and intelligence of 1.0 Carlos Neme Monotoya, who leads the team in minutes per game and has done well playing above his classification on both sides of the ball.
Ranked 21st in the world, Colombia have yet to beat Brazil in international play and a victory would mark the first major international medal won by Colombia.
For live results and full statistics, please visit the Toronto 2015 website.