This Friday, the women’s sitting volleyball team will make history as the first squad ever to participate in the Paralympic Games in this discipline representing Canada.
“We are feeling excited and ready to compete. We have had the chance to familiarize ourselves with the village, training venues, transportation, competition venue and work through our daily schedules,” said Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball head coach, Nicole Ban.
Canada plays home-crowd favourites Brazil, ranked number one at this tournament, in its opener. “We are looking forward to a loud Brazilian fan base in our first match against the host nation, but also know we will have family and friends supporting us in the crowd and from afar as well,” said Ban.
The team had been training at its base in Edmonton and briefly in Toronto before making the trip to Brazil.
“We have worked tirelessly to come as far as we have since the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games,” said Canada’s captain Jolan Wong of Pembroke, Ontario. Canada took bronze at the Parapan Ams and qualified for Rio 2016. “I think we have a relaxed excitement going into our first match. We aren’t the favourites at this event, so we don’t have that added pressure and we can just take it point by point.”
As well as familiarization and following their training schedule, the team was able to participate in Wednesday evening’s opening ceremonies at Maracanã Stadium.
“After having a practice at the competition venue it made this team’s first Paralympic experience even more real,” explained coach Ban. “We used the practice as a focus change from familiarization to competition mode.”
The team also had a scrimmage (shown above) with highly ranked (3) USA. Canada is ranked eighth at the Games.
“We have accepted and embraced our role as underdogs coming in to this competition but know that we are here to compete and push every team we face,” said Ban. “The group has shown an immense amount of improvement throughout our Paralympic preparations, and is ready to put it on display over the next couple weeks here in Rio.”
Volleyball debuted in the Paralympic program in the Arnhem 1980 Games and has been on the Paralympic Games agenda since. Until Sydney 2000, the competitions were divided into two categories: sitting and standing. Since Athens 2004, the Games has including sitting volleyball exclusively.