Thirty-nine athletes — 18 males and 21 females — have been invited to attend selection camps for Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Teams at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas from Jan. 6 to 10.
Canadian Women’s National Team head coach Bill Johnson said the 21 female candidates will compete for 12 roster spots. Although Johnson, a Wolseley resident, is from Winnipeg, none of the selected female wheelchair basketball players are from the city.
"They’re from all across Canada, and actually, most of them don’t play in Canada. Some of them play in Europe or in the United States," Johnson said.
The 12 women selected to join the Canadian Women’s National Team will train together at the University of Manitoba in May.
Johnson said the rules of wheelchair basketball are similar to regular basketball, with the exception of being in a wheelchair. There is also a classification system in place in the wheelchair version.
When athletes first enter the sport, they’re given a number, between one and 4.5, based on their functional ability in a wheelchair.
"If someone has a severe disability, then maybe they’d be worth one point," Johnson said. "And some people would come in with a knee injury — they’re worth 4.5."
"Any combination of players on the court have to equal to 14. It can be less. Sometimes, you’re playing with 13 to 13.5 points," Johnson explained.
In order to join a wheelchair basketball team at the international level, players must have some sort of disability affecting their lower body.
"However, in Canada, the able-bodied are able to play, and the classification system makes it fair for people to play," Johnson said.
In addition to wheelchair basketball, there are wheelchair versions of many other sports in Winnipeg, such as rugby, tennis, and curling.
The Canadian Women’s National Team’s next competition will take place at Ryerson University in Toronto from March 17 to 22 against the Dutch, Japanese, and Australian teams.
For more information, visit wheelchairbasketball.ca or call 613-260-1296.