Image courtesy of Wheelchair Basketball Canada.

Yesterday, Wheelchair Basketball Canada announced the athletes selected to represent Canada in 2017 as part of the Senior Men’s and Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Teams.

The men’s team included 37-year-old Robert “Bo” Hedges from Fort St. John, British Columbia, a veteran of the Canadian squad.

Hedges, who has been a member of the Canadian squad for 20 years, shared with us his thoughts on Canada’s preparation for the 2017 Americas Cup, which is set to take place in Cali, Colombia next week.

A team of sixteen athletes have been training together five days a week in Toronto since May and the selections of the final twelve were made in late July. On top of training daily, the team flew to Argentina to play four friendly games against their national team with Canada victorious in three of the games.

With a number of adjustments faced by the team since Rio – the introduction of a new head coach being one – Hedges explained the time together as a group has been invaluable, “There’s a lot of young and older players getting some team chemistry together. Athletes took some time to refresh themselves with basketball (after Rio), as a lot of the players on the team were Paralympic “rookies” that had never been to a Paralympics before.”

Hedges continued by discussing the changes to the squad post-Rio with the return of Patrick Anderson and the addition of the young talent that have come up through the junior programme such as Alex Hayward, Colin Higgins and Garrett Ostepchuk.

On Anderson’s return to the squad, he added, “It’s always great playing alongside Pat, we have played together for 20 years on and off, it’ll be fun rekindling that chemistry.

It’s been over two years since Canada faced some of the teams they will be playing against, so especially in these games, Hedges says video analysis will be key to help with mental preparation, “It’s good to analyse previous games against the teams you prepare to play so you study their team dynamics and tendencies, this way you can mentally get ready to face them again. You need to stay focused on what you need to do on the court so you can help benefit the team.

“The Americas Cup is a unique tournament, everyone’s there to qualify for the World Championships. The quality of all teams has increased, whereas 10 or 15 years ago there was no question that Canada and the USA would end up in the final.”

After the disappointment of not qualifying for the last World Championships in 2014, Hedges hopes for a different outcome this time around, “Our ambition for the tournament is to qualify for the World Championships next year. The Americas zone is much stronger than it used to be. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have proved themselves to be tough competition as well as the USA.”

“It’s always nice to play in the final game of a tournament and hopefully we’ll be playing against the USA for the gold medal.”

Full Canadian Team List

The IWBF Americas Cup, will take place in Cali, Colombia between August 23rd – 30th. This competition will serve as the Americas zone qualifier for next year’s World Championships. Visit the website for more information.

Written by IWBF junior writer, Dylan Cummings