The Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball began its defence of Parapan Am Games gold with an emphatic 61-44 victory over Brazil on Saturday afternoon in Santiago, Chile.
Led by Kady Dandeneau’s game high 25 points, the Canadians opened up an early lead and never looked back.
After back-to-back quarters scoring 14 points, the Canadians took a seven point lead into halftime. Every time Canada tried to pull away in the first half of the game Brazil seemingly had an answer.
But that changed in the second half. The experience and skill overpowered Brazil in the final two frames.
The Canadians went on an 8-3 run to begin the final frame and started pulling away from Brazil with the score 51-36.
It forced the Brazilians to call a timeout and to try and regroup from the remaining 7:25 of the game.
However, Canada proved to be too much and would cruise to a 16-point victory.
“We got the job done.” Dandeneau said. “It was a little rough at times but we’re off to a really strong start. Brazil has improved so much.”
Four years ago at the Lima 2019 Games the Canadians stunned the Americans to win gold.
But this is about so much more than defending a title or shooting a basketball into a net.
The Canadians are playing for their teammate who isn’t here.
A month ago, longtime national team member Maude Jacques died suddenly at the beginning of October.
The 31-year-old’s death sent a shockwave across throughout the program and the country’s sporting community.
Every player on the team has a shirt with the #9 on the back. They’ll wear the shirts on the way to their games throughout the competition in Santiago.
Many of the players also wrote “#9” on their arms.
“We really wanted to make sure it’s known that we’re always thinking about her. We miss her a lot,” Dandeneau said.
“She always had a really great energy. She just brought an element to our team, it was just so unique and so Maude. I really miss her but she’s here with us.”
Arrin Young, who had been on the court with Jacques for years, is feeling her presence already in Santiago.
“I’ve been teammates with Maude for a really, really long time. She was just an incredible human. I really miss her and these wins are going to be for her,” Young said.
“She was always energetic and loud and I think that’s what we’re trying to do on the bench. And I think that really helped in this game today when things weren’t going our way. We’re trying to bring Maude in our games.”
Longtime teammate and friend Cindy Ouellet, who is competing at her fifth Parapan Am Games, fought back tears as she talked about Jacques.
“We want to play for Maude. These Games are for Maude. And we want to get that gold medal and to the Paralympics for Maude,” Ouellet said.
“She was awesome all around. One of the best players. We’re really going to miss her,” Ouellet said.
She finished the game with 10 points for Canada.
Jacques ‘with us the whole way’
The Canadian Paralympic Committee released a statement in the wake of Jacques’ death, saying “she will be greatly missed by all in Canadian Paralympic sport.”
No cause of death was given.
“Wheelchair Basketball Canada is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Senior Women’s National Team member Maude Jacques. Maude was a beloved member of the wheelchair basketball community. Our hearts go out to her family and friends during this time.”
Jacques was born and raised in Sherbrooke, Que. and represented Canada at the 2012 Paralympics in London. She was a key part of Canadians teams that won a world title in 2014 and was also a three-time Parapan Am Games medallist, including being part of the 2019 gold medal winning team.
She had retired in 2020 at the age of 28, saying “I leave the team with my head held high and I am proud of everything that I have accomplished.”
But Jacques was poised for a comeback. In fact, she was supposed to be with the team in Santiago. Jacques had been training with the national team since April and was on track to compete at these Parapan Am Games.
“She’s with us at every practice and we have shirts we’re going to wear on the way to every game. She’s going to be with us the whole way,” Ouellet said.
The Canadians return to the court Sunday to take on El Salvador.