The USA has returned to the top of the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) world rankings after an undefeated run at the 2016 Canada Cup at Richmond Olympic Oval, British Colombia, Canada, from June 23-26.
With less than three months until Rio 2016, the former world No.1’s made a statement to the rest of the wheelchair rugby world, winning all six of their games. Five of them were against top six-ranked nations including host nation Canada, Australia, Japan, Great Britain and Sweden.
The USA rounded out the perfect tournament with a hard-fought 56-53 win against arch rivals Canada. That will give them plenty of confidence ahead of Rio 2016, including the added bonus of returning to the top before the event.
Defending Paralympic and world champions Australia also showed they should not be written off prior to Rio with a well-earned second place finish. That included a narrow four-goal loss to the USA on the second day of the tournament.
Despite being pre-tournament favourites, Canada had to hand over the No.1 ranking before the Paralympic Games, finishing fourth overall with losses to the USA, Australia and Japan. Wins against Great Britain and Sweden also did not come easy.
“Sometimes it’s hard to say what team is going to show up,” said Canada head coach Kevin Orr.
“When we play our style of play, we’re awesome. When we don’t, it’s ugly.”
The Canadians have now slipped to No.4 in the world, with Australia moving to No.2 behind the USA. Japan maintained its place as the world’s third-ranked team.
Japan continued its preparation for Rio 2016 with a third-place finish in Canada and will be happy to continue to fly under the radar, taking the scalp of the hosts for the first time in a number of attempts at a major tournament.
Great Britain and Sweden may be disappointed they could not finish with more wins.
Great Britain had four losses by six goals or less, including two-goal losses to both Canada and the USA. Sweden fell just one goal short against Great Britain and went down to Australia by three.
Respectively, Great Britain and Sweden stay at the same rankings of No.5 and No.6.
Switzerland also contested this tournament, and, despite finishing at the bottom of the table without a win, relished the opportunity to face the top six nations in the sport at a major event.
Day 1 results
USA 50-48 Great Britain
Canada 54-44 Sweden
Australia 63-58 Japan
Day 2 results
USA 60-56 Australia
Switzerland 38-53 Sweden
Canada 46-44 Great Britain
United States 58-53 Japan
Great Britain 48-47 Sweden
Canada 55-57 Japan
Australia 61-42 Switzerland
Day 3 results
USA 60-37 Switzerland
Australia 53-47 Great Britain
Japan 58-49 Sweden
Canada 58-34 Switzerland
Great Britain 43-49 Japan
Canada 43-54 Australia
USA 56-46 Sweden
Day 4 results
Australia 63-60 Sweden
Great Britain 51-28 Switzerland
Switzerland 34-56 Japan
Canada 53-56 USA
Most of the teams will now return home to commence specialised training camps before the Paralympic Games.
The Rio 2016 wheelchair rugby tournament takes place from 14-18 September at the Carioca Arena 1.