Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team, a favourite of Brazilian fans, advances to the quarter finals at Rio Paralympic Games. Photo courtesy of Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Canada and Brazil bring electric crowd into Rio Olympic Stadium

Unexpected fan favourite and the host country faced off in final preliminary game of women’s wheelchair basketball at Rio Paralympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil- The Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team continues to get an unexpected amount of support from Brazilian fans, even when facing the host country.

Captains Cindy Ouellet and Janet McLachlan led the team to their fourth win of the Rio Paralympics, beating Brazil 82-49 to finish the preliminary round with a 4-1 record.

Although the Brazilian crowd has been nothing but supportive of the Canadians, forward Darda Sales wasn’t sure how it would react when Canada faced off against the host country.

“We knew that there was going to be a lot of energy today,” the London native said. “We knew that it wasn’t necessarily going to be directed towards us, but we decided that we were going to use that energy regardless to help us play up to the level we needed to.”

Coming into the Games, visiting teams never know how fans are going to react, especially when they play the home team. The Canadians have been surprised at the welcome and are loving the experience.

“It has been fantastic,” Sales said. “They’re just so energetic about sport in general I think that whoever is showing that they’re having a good time, that’s who they’re going to jump behind and we are definitely have a great time here.”

The Canadian team holds up a sign to the fans after every game that states, “Obrigada Brazil,” and team captain McLachlan, who scored 16 points Monday, believes in the message, translated as “Thank You, Brazil.”

“It has been a spectacular surprise,” the North Vancouver native said. “Any time you have crowd support, especially after the game yesterday, the chanting of Canada was amazing. I think the banner helps and it’s true, we owe Brazil and the people of Rio and Brazil a huge amount. They’ve done a lot to put these Games on and we owe them a huge thank you.

“I’m really happy our organization went to the effort to make the banner and to give us the opportunity as players to thank the people of Brazil.”

Canada will face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at Rio Olympic Arena and both players are hopeful of more crowd support.

Twitter: @laurcascagnette