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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 4: Wheelchair rugby team gets 1st win

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 & Charlie Pinkerton

The frustration built up over its past 2 losses may have helped give Canada’s wheelchair rugby team an extra boost during its 51-36 win over New Zealand on Day 4 of the Paralympics.
“The boys aren’t in a good mood,” assistant coach Dave Willie had said after their loss to the US two nights ago. “I think they’re disappointed, a little angry. But this is the perfect sport to get rid of your frustration.”
Embrun’s Patrice Dagenais made up for the fact he sat out the first two matches of the tournament by playing for over 26 minutes this game, more than anyone else on the team. He contributed five tries and a steal in the game.
This win leaves Canada in 3rd place out of the 4 teams in their group at the end of the preliminary round. Only the top 2 teams in the each group are continuing on to compete for medals.

Dagenais and the Canadian team will play in a classification match to decide 5th and 6th place Saturday at 7 a.m., eastern time.

Camille Bérubé. Photo: Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee

Camille Bérubé was less than a second off of the bronze medal time, but ultimately finished 5th in the SM7 200-metre individual medley finals.
In the heats, Bérubé was 3rd overall with a time of 3:06.64, a little over 12 seconds behind 1st place Mallory Weggemann of the United States. The finals were essentially a rematch of the heats, with all the same swimmers competing (the top 8 out of 9 swimmers qualified for the final, and one swimmer was disqualified in the heats).
Bérubé improved her time by almost 3 seconds in the heats, clocking in at 3:03.91. This still wasn’t enough to keep her spot in 3rd, with bronze medallist Tiffany Thomas Kane of Australia recording a time of 3:03.11. Fellow Canadian Danielle Dorris was even closer to the podium, finishing with a time of 3:03.16.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Canada’s women’s goalball team yet (including Ottawa athletes Whitney Bogart, Amy Burk, and Emma Reinke), check out these highlights from yesterday’s game against Israel to see what you’re missing.

You’ll get another chance to watch the goalball team tonight at 8:00 p.m., when they take on Australia. The match is their second-last of the group stage. While Canada has the same number of wins as Israel and China (1), Canada sits 4th in their group based on goal differential. Team Canada plays the Chinese early Monday morning.

Canada needs to avoid finishing 5th in its group to move onto the quarterfinals. The team would clinch a playoff spot by beating the last-place Australians. 

Day 5 Preview: 4-time Paralympian Amy Burk’s passion for goalball burns bright

When Amy Burk’s teammates talk about what she brings to the goalball court, they all agree on one thing: intensity.
“She is the full-on leader on the team. She has a very strong personality on and off the court,” said Whitney Bogart, who is both Burk’s long-time teammate on Canada’s goalball team and her sister-in-law (Burk is married to Bogart’s twin brother).
“She’s loud – she’s probably one of the most vocal, competitive people I’ve met. We all may be competitive, but she shows that she’s competitive,” laughed Bogart. “It helps the whole team to have that same mindset.”
Burk’s reputation for being a passionate competitor has served her well in her goalball career. She is the captain of the women’s goalball team and a veteran of the sport — the Tokyo Games marks her fourth time at the Paralympics.
That push towards excellence has always a part of Burk’s goalball journey, but it took some time to achieve the discipline and leadership skills that her teammates now admire her for.
“I’ve really learned that to be able to perform at your peak, you really need to take care of your body, and I’m sad that it took me until almost my 30s to clue into that,” she laughed.
Thinking back to her first Paralympics in Beijing, Burk shared that while she’s naturally competitive, she didn’t always take the steps she needed to off the court to perform at her best on the court.

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Amy Burk. Photo: CPC

“Even as a teenager I don’t think my workout ethic was the greatest — it was kind of half-assed sometimes,” she joked. “Being young you don’t think you need to do the warm-ups or the cool-downs, but when you reach your mid-20s you realize you’re not going to be awesome and young forever, so you have to start playing smart. I think my work ethic has changed a lot over the last 13 years,” she said.

Now, that more mature work ethic has propelled her to being one of the most prominent representatives of goalball in Canada and a source of wisdom for younger players. Thinking about what she hopes her team will experience in Tokyo, especially the rookies on the roster, Burk knows from experience that once the Games begin, the best strategy is simply to enjoy the ride.

“One of the things I keep telling the group is that we’ve put in the work for the past five years, and now it’s just time to have fun. Everyone wants to win and be the greatest, but as silly as it sounds, if you’re not having fun and enjoying what you’re doing but there’s no point in doing it,” she said.

She hopes more media coverage of the Paralympics will lead to new fans of the dynamic sport. “If it comes across your app, give it a click — I think it’s something that everyone should experience, she said, but added that she’s thrilled to see goalball already growing in popularity internationally. No longer just a sport dominated by Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., teams around the world are keeping Burk and her teammates on their toes.

Other Ottawa Paralympians in action on Day 5 are:

After finally pulling off a win in the group stage, Patrice Dagenais and the wheelchair rugby team avoided playing for the bottom 2 spots in the tournament. They’ll face France tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. with the winner placing 5th overall and the loser placing 6th.

Camille Bérubé has her second race of the Games, the 100-metre breaststroke, starting tonight at 8:07 p.m. The best 8 out of 11 athletes will move on to the final, which can be watched here from Ottawa at 4:07 a.m.

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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