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Five things to know about the Canadian men's wheelchair basketball team

September 07, 2016 - 1:38 PM

The Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team heads into the Rio Paralympics looking to reach the podium for the first time since claiming bronze in 2004 in Rio. They open round-robin play of the 10-nation tournament Thursday against No. 5 Britain. Here are five things to know:

HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Despite its recent medal drought at the Paralympics, expectations are high as Canada enters Rio as the world No. 1 after winning the 2014 world championship. It's been a long road back to the top under head coach Bill Johnson after the program dominated for years. The Canadians won gold in three straight Games before bronze in Athens. At the last Games in London, Canada dropped to sixth place — its worst showing at any Games since joining competition in 1972.

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BEWARE OF GERMANY: Canada is in Group A alongside Britain, No. 2 Germany, No. 11 Brazil and unranked Argentina. The Germans, who took home gold in London, will be the stiffest competition in group play, but the Canadians are well prepared for what to expect and beat them in the finals of the 2014 worlds 54-50. Group B is made up of No. 3 Netherlands, No. 4 United States, No. 7 China, No. 8 France and unranked Algeria.

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HALL OF FAMER: Veteran Tracy Ferguson will be competing in her seventh Paralympic Games when the women hit the court. The 41-year-old is the only remaining player from Canada's last gold medal performance at Sydney 2000 and will be expected to help guide the five players making their Paralympic debuts. Ferguson was elected into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2012 for her contribution to sport after making her debut in Barcelona 1992.

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GO 'BAMA: The University of Alabama is heavily represented on Canada with eight members of the team having a connection to the school. Cindy Ouellette, Katie Harnock, Janet McLachlan and Erica Gavel are former players for the Crimson Tide while Arinn Young and Darda Sales are on the current roster. Jamey Jewells and Rosalie Lalonde will be joining the school as freshmen when they return from Rio.

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DARDA'S DEBUT: A veteran of three Paralympics in the pool, Darda Sales will be making her debut on the hardwood after a successful swimming career that saw her earn gold in Sydney and a silver in Athens. The 34-year-old Sales dropped competitive swimming in 2009 and took up wheelchair basketball, eventually being named to the national team in 2014. She still coaches swimmers back home at the London Aquatic Club.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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