Gritty determination earns Canada bronze

ON GUARD: Tracey Ferguson looks for the open teammate while fighting off an Australian defender at the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in England.

It may be bronze, but point guard Tracey Ferguson is ecstatic: It’s the fifth straight year the womens wheelchair basketball team has reached the podium in international play.

From July 7-17 the new Torontonian via Holland’s Landing, Ont. fought hard on the court in Birmingham, England in seven unpredictable games, including the bronze match against a tough Australian squad, which Canada won 59-49.

All it came down to for the ladies was steely resolve.

“We knew every team that was there could pull off a win at any time so it was persevering through any lulls or downs, making sure we stuck to what our plan was,” Ferguson said. “Especially in the first two games we had some nerves coming out there and the games were a little closer than we would have liked to expected.”

Tallying a 54-39 win over Great Britain in game one, 58-54 over Netherlands, and 69-44 against Mexico, the first stumbling block for the crew was Australia on July 12, when they lost 59-53.

Rebounding from the Aussie loss, Canada came back to slam Japan 62-39 in the quarter-finals before meeting their rivals: the United States.

A win would put Ferguson and company into the gold medal match against Germany.

However, it would not come to be as the U.S. won 68-58.

“We knew the way we had played against the U.S. was a great game,” she said. “There were just a few breaks we didn’t get, or a few shots, otherwise it was our victory.”

A win indeed, as the ladies used their loss, along with their previous downing to Australia, as motivation to reach the podium.

“We actually used (the U.S. loss) as a confidence booster because if you can play like that and knowing we were doing everything right, you just had to keep building on that and not let it get you down,” Ferguson said. “Again, it’s that whole method of persevering.

“I think the second thing we took into that game was we had a big lead when we played against Australia the first time and we let it slip away and we knew that wasn’t going to happen to us a second time.”

Ferguson admitted gold would have been nice, but there is plenty of optimism brewing as the team ramps up for the next big task: The 2012 Paralympic Summer Games taking place in London, England.

“It’s been a tough little run and I think as soon as we get a little bit of a breather, some time to relax, we’re really looking into building for 2012,” she said. “The team that we have and the players that are coming up in the system … it’s really looking promising to get back on the podium.”

And with all the attention post-Vancouver 2010 games, the team is certainly hoping to keep the morale in full plentitude.

“One of the amazing things after the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver was the amount of support the public and the media put behind the athletes,” Ferguson said. “We really hope that kind of momentum carries into 2012, see that enthusiasm by the Canadians supporting our athletes again.”

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