By Michael Grace-Dacosta
Ryerson welcomed the world on Friday for the start of the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The tournament runs until June 28 and with 12 countries competing, it will be the largest women’s world championship ever. This is the first time Canada has hosted.
Canada is going for an unprecedented seventh straight podium finish at the tournament, which is held every four years.
They had won four straight world championships from 1994-2006 before finishing third in 2010. The team is looking to bounce back from a disappointing sixth place finish at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Canada got off to a good start Friday, beating Japan 83-53.
“I think this is a really good group,” said Tracey Ferguson, who’s been with the team for 23 years. “We’ve got all the technically and technical skills that we can play with any team.”
Given Canada’s track record at this tournament and the fact that they’re the host nation this time around the expectations on the team are high.
“I like the pressure,” said Ferguson. “I also love the fact we got our family and friends [here to support us].”
They also gained support from elementary and middle school students in the greater Toronto area who were able to attend the game at a reduced price thanks to the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship school program.
“It was really fun,” said Evany Jumale, a student from Niagara Street Junior public school. “We like the game and we liked that everyone was showing team spirit.”
The tournament comes one day after it was announced that all the basketball games at the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am games will be played at the MAC.
Canada will face Brazil on Saturday before playing China on Sunday and the top-ranked Germany on Monday. Canada’s last group match will be against England on Tuesday.