Canadian Men’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team head coach Jerry Tonello is taking a leave of absence ahead of the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in order to spend time with his family while he undergoes treatment for a brain tumor.
Tonello, who led Team Canada to gold at the London 2012 Paralympics, is temporarily relinquishing his duties as head coach in order to focus on his recovery.
“Jerry’s health and well-being are most important to us,” said Wheelchair Basketball Canada Executive Director Wendy Gittens. “He can now focus on taking care of himself and his family. We want Jerry to know that all of us in the wheelchair basketball community support him and wish him well during his treatment and recovery.”
Steve Bialowas, a resident of Richmond Hill, Ont., has been named interim head coach of the Canadian Men’s National Team, and will replace Tonello for the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
“My heart remains with the team even if I can’t physically be there courtside with them during the competition. I know how much it means to everyone to show Canadians, and remind the rest of the World, why Canada is the team to beat. Everyone has been working extremely hard to get ready for this summer and I look forward to cheering Team Canada on in the gold medal game,” said Tonello.
“On behalf of Team Canada, I wish Jerry a quick recovery,” said Elisabeth Walker-Young, Chef de Mission for the Canadian Parapan Am Team. “It’s important for Jerry to focus on his health and his family during these difficult times. He will remain a strong pillar within the Team and will continue to be a source of inspiration to our Canadian athletes as they compete in Toronto.”
Bialowas is also head coach of the Canadian Junior Men’s National Team, which he has led at two Junior World Championships in 2005 and 2013. He began coaching in Canada’s high performance program in 2001. As an assistant that year he helped the Canadian Junior Men’s National Team to their second consecutive gold medal. Also as an assistant, he helped coach the Canadian Women’s National Team to a world championship title in 2002, and a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in 2004.
The Canadian Men must finish amongst the top two teams at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in order to qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games. As part of their preparations they are currently training in Toronto until June 6th. Afterwards they will travel to Germany in early July and compete in the World Team Cup July 10-12th.
About Team Canada
The Senior Men’s National Team went undefeated at the London 2012 Paralympics to capture their third gold medal in four Paralympic Games. It is the latest accomplishment in a sport dynasty that has placed them on the podium at four consecutive Paralympics and at five of the last six world championships.
About Wheelchair Basketball Canada
Wheelchair Basketball Canada is the national sports governing body responsible for the organization of the sport in Canada. It is a non-profit, charitable organization that is committed to excellence in the development, support and promotion of wheelchair basketball programs and services for all Canadians from grassroots to high performance. Wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, competitive sport in which Canada is held in high esteem around the world for winning a combined six gold, one silver, and one bronze medal in the last six Paralympic Games.