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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 2: Round robins begin for goalball and rugby

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This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

By Kieran Heffernan, Madalyn Howitt, Dan Plouffe & Charlie Pinkerton

The very first match of the women’s goalball tournament at the Tokyo Paralympics was between Canada and the RPC, with the Russians taking a 5-1 win.

The team of Russian athletes — which competes as the Russian Paralympic Committee instead of their country’s name after Russia’s multi-year ban from international competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency — opened the scoring just a few seconds into the first period. Canada had a chance to respond not long after, when the RPC received a long ball penalty. Unfortunately for the Canadian side, a penalty shot by Ottawa’s Amy Burk missed just wide of the net.

The RPC would go on to score twice more in the first half, while Canada missed a second penalty shot.

The Russians kept up their scoring streak in the second half, netting two more goals before Emma Reinke, who also lives in Ottawa, responded with a goal of her own to break the RPC’s shutout with about one minute left in the match.

Ottawa’s three athletes on the team, Burk, Reinke and Whitney Bogartall made contributions to the match, with Reinke having the highest number of throws on the team with 41.

Canada’s team will need to rebound after the loss to earn a top-four position in their group of five to advance past the preliminary round into the quarterfinals.

Canada’s wheelchair rugby team was also in action early this morning against Great Britain. Ottawa’s Patrice Dagenais did not see the floor as Canada the British won 50-47. Canada never trailed by more than three points for the entire game, but they were also never able to catch the British.

Day 3 Preview: Canada’s wheelchair rugby captain wants to return to podium

Patrice Dagenais and the mixed wheelchair rugby team will try to come back from their loss to the Brits in another match tonight — this time against the USA.

Canada’s last two group stage matches will determine if they advance to the semifinals. To have a chance at a medal, Canada needs to finish top 2 (out of 4) in its group.

The team is an experienced one, with just three members making their Paralympic debuts. Most of the roster has multiple Games under their belts.

Dagenais — Canada’s rugby team’s co-captain — who was born in Ottawa and lives just outside of the city, is known as both a formidable in-game leader and a determined promoter of the sport off the court.

“I like to get into situations where sometimes I’m coaching more than I’m playing,” said Dagenais.

A 16-year veteran of the sport, Dagenais’s passion for guiding others in wheelchair rugby has helped him become president of the Ottawa Stingers rugby club, as well as land him his leadership position with Canada’s national team.

Patrice Dagenais competing in Argentina in 2019. Photo: CPC

“I think just putting all that time mentally into [wheelchair rugby] is probably why I am having success at the Paralympic level,” Dagenais said.

That’s also why he’s so appreciated by players who he’s helped introduce to the game.

Brianna Hennessy is a fellow Tokyo Paralympian who will be competing in both para-canoe and para-kayak. Hennessy, who is also from Ottawa, first met Dagenais when she joined the Stingers after a traumatic car accident in 2014. She credits Dagenais with helping to pull her out of the deep depression that followed.

For someone so involved on the leadership side of the team however, Dagenais admits it was tough being away from his teammates for so much of the last year. He had some slight worries that keeping his teammates motivated and interested in learning more about the sport over video practices could be a challenge.

But, that turned out not to be an issue.

“Knowing that the Games were postponed and not cancelled, I think the motivation was still there [to grow],” he said.

“We’re playing with purpose,” Dagenais said of Team Canada. “I think mentally we should be up to the expectations that we have for ourselves. I’m looking forward [to seeing] all the hard work that we put in the last year and adjusting our style of play — that’s going to be beneficial for us against the competition.”

Wheelchair rugby continues to be one of the most high-profile Paralympic sports, and understandably so. Fast-paced and high-impact, games can attract a lot of attention from audiences.

“Everybody’s very impressed with the level of skill and intensity and the speed of the game. It really surprises people to see that these people are in wheelchairs and are hitting each other as hard as they can on the court,” said Dagenais, who hopes the positive feedback he hears from new spectators continues to draw new fans to the sport he loves.

Here’s where you can watch Canada’s team take on the Americans tonight, beginning at 10:30 p.m.

Other Ottawa Paralympians in action on Day 3 are:

Whitney BogartAmy BurkEmma Reinke and the Canadian women’s goalball team are back in action tomorrow. Tomorrow’s match — scheduled for 7:30 a.m., eastern time — is against Israel. It’s one of three of Canada’s remaining preliminary round games. Canada needs to avoid finishing last in their group to advance to the quarterfinals.

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

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