London is calling for the Canadian senior men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams as both squads qualified for the 2012 Paralympic games in London at the Parapan American Games held in Guadalajara, Mexico from Nov. 13-19.
The men advanced with a bronze medal finish, while the women – including Elmira’s Katie Harnock – qualified thanks to a silver medal performance. There were three Paralympic berths up for grabs for both the men and the women at the start of the tournament.
The Canadian women were nearly flawless en route to the gold medal showdown against the Americans, sporting a 4-0 record heading into the finals.
The Canadians fell short in the championship game, however, losing 69-31 to the top-ranked U.S. squad and earned a second straight silver medal after losing in the finals four years ago in Brazil.
“(The tournament) went reasonably well until the final game,” said Harnock over the phone from the University of Alabama, where she attends school.
“Unfortunately, against the U.S. we definitely didn’t play our best and they sure did. We’re usually a relatively close match with them and in that match we weren’t.”
Harnock finished with zero points and two assists in the final game while playing just over 25 minutes. Over the course of the tournament she finished tied for eighth with 15 assists and also collected 38 points.
While some might attribute their loss to the Americans to fatigue, Harnock said the team just didn’t perform well enough to take home the gold.
“We were all there for the same time, we were all eating the same food, and we were all staying in the same beds. They (the Americans) were really dialed in and I think it was a case of them catching us off guard in the first ten minutes and we were never able to catch up after that.”
Now that the team has qualified for next summer’s Paralympics, Harnock has turned her focus back to playing for her university squad but will have team Canada in the back of her mind; she must still qualify for the London-bound team, which comes up early in the new year.
“I’ll go home and see my family (over the holidays), but tryouts are right after that so I really can’t afford to take much time off. I’ll be doing lifting and working out at home to be ready to try and make the team.”
The national team coach praised Harnock’s poise on the court and said she was an important member of their squad in Guadalajara.
“Katie’s actually a pretty key player for us,” said Team Canada head coach Bill Johnson. “She’s an excellent offensive player. She scores a lot of points for us and is a pretty good transition player as well. She’s also a great passer and brings a little bit of veteran leadership.”
Once the team is selected the players will gather in Winnipeg in June to train leading up to the London games from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, 2012.
If Harnock does make the Paralympic squad, it’ll be her second time representing her country at the games following a disappointing fifth-place finish in 2008 in Beijing. She has won gold at the World Championships in 2006 and now has a pair of silver medals from the Parapan Games, but is looking to add an Paralympic medal to her total.
“I don’t have a Paralympic medal – it’s the only one I don’t have yet – so I’m really looking forward to making the team and being part of things for the next couple of months.”