Team Canada endured a tough loss at the hands of the USA in wheelchair rugby, ending the team’s hopes for a podium finish in Tokyo.
The Canadians fell 58-54 in a very close affair at Yoyogi National Stadium in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Canada’s coach David Willsie knows it takes a well-executed 32 minutes to win at this stage, especially against a decorated team like the Americans.
“You can’t let your foot off the gas for two seconds in this sport,” said Willsie, post-game. (We had) a couple of lapses and they took advantage of that.
“We just have to stay tough for the full 32 minutes that it takes to play the game, and we’re going to grind out the rest of this tournament.”
The lapses for the Canadian squad were their Achilles heel. Once a team falls behind by more than three or four in this sport, it is a very tough hill to climb. Canada had a +2 turnover differential going into the half, leading to their early 28-27 lead after 16 minutes.
It was in the second half where things became undone as Canada racked up three offensive fouls and five defensive fouls to the Americans’ three, giving team USA plenty of chances to capitalize on the Canadian mishaps.
Outside of turnovers, Canada did have some gutsy performances, especially the one they received from Zak Madell. The 27-year-old had a game-high 31 tries, tying his total from the previous game vs Great Britain. The Edmonton native also racked up 10+ assists.
Nine of those assists were paired with his forward partner Mike Whitehead, who added nine tries. Postgame, Whitehead mentioned how honoured he feels to be able to play alongside guys like Madell.
“It’s always a pleasure to be on the court with world-class athletes like Zak,” said Whitehead. “The guys make my job easy. All the boys battled, and it’s an honour to be on Team Canada.”
Unfortunately for the Canadians, their chance at a podium finish was kiboshed a few hours later after Great Britain secured its second win of the tournament, beating New Zealand 60-37 and securing them a second in Group B with two wins.
Canada still has a chance at fifth place in the tournament if they can win their final game against New Zealand early Friday morning, propelling them into the Classification 5-6 match.