With tension building from an evenly contested game over the weekend early in the fourth quarter, the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team put together run that Australia could never match.
Canada was golden, again, taking home the hardware after a hard-fought 64-58 win, and listened as “Oh Canada” played while they sat atop the podium.
For a few of the Canadian team legends, perhaps at the end of their Paralympic careers, it was a fitting rivalry and dramatic win. Patrick Anderson, the Michael Jordan of wheelchair basketball, closed out the tournament with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.
“Pat’s a tremendous ambassador for Canada basketball and I believe the Paralympic movement in general,” said Jody Kingsbury, communications manager at Wheelchair Basketball Canada on Monday in a phone interview with the Toronto Observer.
“Somebody of his talents and skill when you get to see him play he just captivates people and I think that the more people that can see somebody like that participating at the highest level, it creates more awareness here in Canada and around the world for wheelchair basketball and the Paralympics.”
Anderson, of Fergus, Ont., led all players with 200 total points in the tournament, and led Canada to an 8-0 record. With his brilliant play leading a strong team-based attack, Canada was able to spread the floor and separate the Australian defence in the final frame.
Along with longtime teammates Dave Durepos of Fredericton, N.B., Joey Johnson of Winnipegand Richard Peter from Duncan, B.C., Anderson represented Canadain Paralympic wheelchair basketball for the fourth time.
After winning Paralympic gold in 2000 and 2004 and gold at the 2006 world championships, the Canadians lost the final match of the 2008 Games in Beijing to a tough Australian team, making their 2012 victory that much more meaningful.
With three golds and one silver medal at the Paralympics, some are calling this team a dynasty.
“I think that when you’re talking about Paralympic basketball that Canada is the team that comes to mind,” said Kingsbury. “I think that we’ve had a long tradition of success starting with our women’s national team winning three straight gold medals, which is a record, and then our men have now won three of the past four Paralympics.”
What seems like a dramatic finale for Anderson may not be so final. Though he’s been a member of the national team since he was 17, Anderson is a relatively young 33 and hasn’t confirmed his permanent retirement plans.
Meanwhile, fellow veteran Durepos, who at 44 is the oldest member of the team, announced his retirement at the end of gold-medal match.
“High performance athletes in general are definitely role models,” said Kingsbury. “I think that here in Canada our younger athletes and people that are getting exposed to the sport definitely look up to the members of the national team and see all the hard work and dedication that goes into their medal performances and they take those as lessons of what they need to do to compete at a high level as well.”
Anderson says that, for now, he’s going to step away from basketball and pursue his passion for music by continuing his music degree at Hunter College in New York. He had previously retired after the Beijing Olympics, but returned to the team in 2011.
Participating at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil won’t be out of the question for Anderson, who will be 37, and if he competes he’ll make the Jordan comparisons even more appropriate.