For Bo Hedges, the road to his fourth Paralympic Games has been unlike any other.
After 18 months of preparations, questions, and endless ups and downs, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics are finally set to take place, and the Canadian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team will fly to Japan August 12. The Games begin August 20, with Canada’s first game set for August 26.
“It’s crazy to think that a year and a half has flown by. We’ve gone through the most of the preparation twice now,” he said. Hedges, from Wonowon, is currently in Toronto training with the team.
“The last year (of the four-year cycle between Paralympics) is unique, but we haven’t done much travelling to play international teams, and it’s very unusual.”
Where Hedges and his teammates would typically play 30 to 40 games against other teams leading up to the Paralympics, the team hasn’t competed against other national teams since the Lima Parapan American Games in August 2019, when Canada took home the silver medal. The last time the men took to the court in a competition was at a test event in Japan in February 2020, though they didn’t play national squads.
Some of the European teams have gotten to play other countries more than the Canadians, Americans, and Australians have, Hedges said, but he feels the team is ready for the challenge, and has been practicing tirelessly in the months leading up to the Games.
Wheelchair Basketball Canada officially announced its Paralympic team July 19. Hedges is the second-most experienced member behind Patrick Anderson, who will be making his fifth appearance at the Paralympic Games.
Canada finished 11th at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, but Hedges has higher hopes for this year.
“We had a young team in Rio, a lot of the guys had never been to the Paralympic Games before and didn’t know how to train. Now, we’ve been through it all together, have added new pieces, and our goals are to get out of the round robin,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get to the quarterfinal game, do well enough to not be matched up against the Americans, the previous Paralympic champs, and see what we can do.”
Hedges said these Games will be much different than his previous three trips. There will be little to no fans in attendance, and much less of a spectacle overall, but he’s not focusing on that.
“Personally, I try not to focus on those things. I’m more focused on what we are doing now, enjoying the moment, and the chance that we get to compete at the Paralympics,” Hedges said.
A year ago, there was nothing but uncertainty around the Games, and plans were changing constantly. However, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally set to begin this Friday, July 23, the Paralympics are just around the corner.
“It feels really good. We’re almost there, flights are being booked, the final pieces are coming to place. We had no idea what would happen a year ago, but the team has put in a lot of time, made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point,” said Hedges.
"It’s pretty special and I think the effort will come to fruition, and we’ll do a great job representing Canada."
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org