Canada’s wheelchair rugby team finished off the Paralympic podium for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games after losing the bronze-medal match to Japan by a score of 52-50 on Sept. 18 in Rio.
It was the Canadians third loss in as many days, as they again fell behind early and could not manage a comeback.
Japan’s Daisuke Ikezaki led his team with 19 points, while Yukinobu Ike added 18 for a balanced attack that Canada was unable to match.
Zak Madell put in another strong effort with a 35-point performance. The Canadian lineup featured Byron Green of Courtenay, who now lives and works in Vancouver.
Prior to Rio, Canada had enjoyed a successful run in wheelchair rugby. This will be only the second time they have not reached the Paralympic podium since 1996.
Canada’s gold medal hopes were dashed on Sept. 17 when Team USA showed why they are the number one ranked team in the world, defeating the Canadians 60-55 with a near-flawless performance in the semifinals.
Canada got off to a rocky start when the smothering American defensive – which double-teamed Madell for most of the game – forced them to burn two of their four timeouts. At the end of the first, the USA was up only 14-13.
“When you lose that turnover battle, it’s hard to fight back,” said co-captain Trevor Hirschfield after the game. “At this level, there just aren’t that many chances to create turnovers.”
In their final Group B pool game on Sept. 16, Canada lost to Australia 63-62 in overtime in a rematch of the gold medal final in London won by the Aussies four years ago. The Canadians finished the preliminary round with two wins and a loss.
The Canadians trailed by one point after the second and third quarters. Australia won the three-minute OT 7-6. Madell led the Canadian attack with 39 points.
A Canadian turnover in extra time kept Australia ahead as they edged Canada for first place in Group B.
The Sept. 7-18 Games wrapped up Sunday.