Canada fell just short of gold at the wheelchair rugby Canada Cup with a 57-56 overtime loss to world no. 2 Japan in the tournament final on Sunday in Richmond, BC
The Canadians, ranked fifth in the world, returned to the podium for the first time since 2014 after going 5-0 in round-robin play en route to their silver medal at the Richmond Oval.
”It’s great to see we are right in there right now,” said three-time Canadian Paralympian Trevor Hirschfield. ”Playing a tight game against Japan, especially with the world championships later this year is promising. Hats off to the guys, a great week.”
Hirschfield forced the overtime when he completed a three-way passing play at the buzzer to tie the score 52-52. With only 12 seconds left in regulation, Mike Whitehead hustled down the court, tossed the ball to Zak Madell who found Hirschfield parked on the goal line.
WATCH l Replay of gold-medal match between Canada, Japan:
The hard-hitting Japanese had first possession in overtime and grabbed a 53-52 lead. The teams exchanged points the rest of the way and Canada ran out of time in its bid to send the game to a second overtime.
”Today we saw the Japanese team we are used to,” said Hirschfield. ”They were fast and they hit hard. In the preliminary game they had an unusual slow start and we feasted on that.
”So it was a tough loss for us in the final.”
The Canadians were looking to win their first ever gold medal in nine editions of the Canada Cup tournament, which is considered one of the biggest in the sport outside of the Paralympic Games and world championships. They were fourth at the last two editions in 2016 and 2018 and have now won four silver medals overall.
Catch up with wheelchair rugby co-captain @trevor_hirsch10 and Benoit Huot after the wheelchair rugby Canada Cup ? @WCRugbyCanada pic.twitter.com/ri2XSefxkH
Madell led Canada with 33 points, while Cody Caldwell added nine, Mike Whitehead seven and Hirschfield five.
Canada grabbed its first lead at the end of the first quarter at 14-13 when it recovered an errant pass by Japan. But two Canadian mistakes in the second quarter, one on a botched scoring opportunity and another on a time violation, put Japan back ahead 19-18.
In return, the visitors got sloppy at the end of the third with Hirschfield and Madell cashing in and it was 37-36 Canada. Fuya Shirakawa, Japan’s top scorer with 19 tries, regained the lead with 1:51 left in regulation when a Canadian pass was intercepted, setting up a dramatic finish.
Denmark captured bronze earlier on Sunday with a 52-50 win over Great Britain, the Paralympic champions in Tokyo last summer.
Canada finished fifth in Tokyo.