(Richmond, BC) -- Canada proved both its mental and physical toughness today in the opening match of the 2012 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament with a hard-fought 47-46 victory over rival Sweden. The tournament, which takes place from June 21 – 23 at the Richmond Olympic Oval, is the final stop for teams before the 2012 London
The last time the two teams met at the Richmond Olympic Oval, at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, Sweden upset Canada to knock them out of medal contention. Beating them on home soil would give Canada a decisive mental edge leading into the London 2012 Paralympics.
“It was important for us to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and prove that we can beat these guys,” said Head Coach Kevin Orr. “They’re a tough team, but if we want to win gold we need to beat tough teams.”
In the opening moments of the game, Canada scored first, then forced a jump ball against the Swedes. Just when it looked as if the Canadians would mount an early lead, however, Sweden created a turnover to even the score. In front of a sold-out crowd of fans and school children from Gilmore Elementary School, the two teams traded leads, hits and fouls in a tough, aggressive match.
With three minutes to go, Canada was down by two. The calm Canadians, however, would not go down without a fight. Veteran athlete Fabien Lavoie forced a turnover that sparked a three-point run for Canada. Though Sweden brought it back to within one point in the final seconds, the Canadians held on to claim the victory.
“We have some great veteran leadership on this team and everyone really came together to win when it counted,” said Coach Orr. “You can’t ask for better preparation for London than a one-point comeback win against such a physical team.”
Tonight, Canada plays Australia at 7 pm PST. The Australians, lead by superstar Ryley Batt, are the reigning silver medalists. All games will be webcast live atwww.canadacupwcrugby.com.
ABOUT CANADA CUP: The Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament is the most elite wheelchair rugby event after the World Championships and Paralympics. Since 2004, it has been hosted biannually by BC Wheelchair Sports Association. The 2012 Canada Cup will be held from June 21 - 23 at the Richmond Olympic Oval and will feature all eight teams competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. As the last stop before the London, the stakes will be particularly high this year as teams battle for the mental edge. For more information, please visit www.canadacupwcrugby.com.
ABOUT WHEELCHAIR RUGBY: Wheelchair rugby is a team sport for male and female athletes with a physical disability that affects at least three limbs. This physically demanding full-contact team sport is played indoors on a hardwood basketball court between two teams of four players. It is a unique sport that combines some elements of basketball, handball, and ice hockey. Wheelchair rugby was created in Canada in 1977 by a group of athletes with a disability in Manitoba and was originally known as “murderball.”