Not only is it GB’s Simon Munn’s 7th Paralympic Games but Canadian Tracey Ferguson is also looking forward to her seventh Paralympics Games at Rio 2016. We talk to her ahead of the start of the competition to see how she is feeling and what she expects of the tournament.
When you speak with Tracey you feel an energy, a joy of life, her infectious enthusiasm. She talks in a way that you can imagine a sparkle in her eyes. No wonder that she is so successful in what she’s doing – especially in wheelchair basketball. She overcomes every challenge and has a great competitive spirit.
Tracey had to learn to fight at a young age. At the age of nine spinal surgery left her paralysed but to give up never came into her mind. Four years later she discovered wheelchair basketball and fell in love with this sport because it gave her the chance to play with her friends.
“It’s a sport for everybody not only for people with disabilities.”
Tracey loves it today as much as she did then, she added.
“What I love about it now is the opportunity to get better every day. You can always try to learn and try to give it your best.”
That is what Tracey has shown in an impressive way for more than 25 years. She has won four World Championships in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2014 as well as a bronze in 2010 and she has been a member of six Paralympic Games teams, helping Canada win gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and a bronze in 2004.
Rio 2016 will be her seventh Paralympic Games!
“I have been really lucky to stay healthy and be able to continue for this long. I am really grateful. I never had planned this but I still enjoy playing basketball. That’s a big thing.”
Tracey has always lived with the fact that every game could be her last game. Her motto of life is: Enjoy every moment.
“Sometimes people look back to the past so much and they miss the present so I just want to stay in the moment and take it as it is. You know life is short so you have to enjoy all the little things because if you don’t you lose the fun and you lose the passion.”
Actually Tracey never has lost her passion for wheelchair basketball. She trains today as hard as she did in the past. She believes every athlete has one moment when you think about giving up if it’s too tough but the important thing is to fight through it, Tracey says.
“The best thing is after when you know you’ve done it” and with a little smile she continues: “The feeling to be number one is better than anything else.”
The other side of having a life of sport is that she misses a lot of her family life. She hasn’t seen her German boyfriend or her dog very often as well as her family and friends.
“I am incredibly thankful for my partner. He is very understanding and he supports me. That’s what my life and my career is. As much as we miss each other he is always enhancing me and sending me little messages just to keep me going.”
But also Tracey would not be as successful as she is without her family, she said,
“From the start as a little child they have always encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do, but it was never pressure. If I lost a game or played badly they were always there to pick me up and push me. I have a really great family. For me it’s the best family in the world.”
Aged 42, Tracey feels well prepared for her seventh Paralympic Games. For the last three years she has been playing in Trier in Germany in the Bundesliga and she believes that she has been playing in one of the strongest leagues in the world which has really helped her to improve. The training at the club is great but obviously she has also spent much time with the Canadian national team training in the last four month. She said. “It was a very intense and tough training day by day”
In contrast to her first Paralympics in Barcelona in 1992 where there were only two or three favourites for the podium Tracey thinks that in Rio there will be about seven teams which have a chance to win Gold.
“China are always a surprise package and strong because we don’t see them very often. Brazil are on home turf and they always play with passion and lot of heart and then of course you have Germany, the Netherland and USA. Great Britain are playing fantastic right now. I can’t pick three teams that are going to make the podium right now. It’s amazing to have such great competition and that’s what we want for our sport.”
One thing is for certain at Rio 2016 the Canadian national player will again give it her best. Tracey said,
“Obviously you want to be the best in the world but for me it’s already a win when the team and I put everything in the game they are able to and when they have played their best. With this you have to be satisfied you have to be proud and then you will see where you stand at the end.”