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Bowden tops in world in one sport, cut from team in another

by Chris Daponte

ORTON - The last month has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for local athlete Brad Bowden.

In early April, he played a key role in a huge victory for TeamCanada at the sledge hockey World Championships, and about two weeks later he was cut from the national wheel­chair basketball team, of which he has been a member since 2003.

But despite the latter disappointment, Bowden said he is looking forward to enjoying his summer and concentrating on his first true passion - sledge hockey.

Regarded as one of the best players in the world, Bowden finished the World Champion­ships with 13 points - good enough for third place behind only linemates Billy Bridges and Greg Westlake - leading Canada to a perfect 6-0 record at the world tournament.

While Canada cruised through the tournament, heavily outscoring its opponents, the team defeated Norway in a spirited final game by a score of 3-2. Bowden registered two assists in the final, including a great set-up on Westlake’s winning goal with just nine seconds remaining in the game.

“It was pretty dramatic,” he said of the last-minute win.

The victory, and specifically Bowden’s performance, were made even more impressive considering the team was shorthanded for much of the contest, and without Bridges for the final two periods after he was assessed a five minute penalty and game misconduct for spearing.

“We were definitely pretty confident in our play going in, and I think the results showed that,” Bowden said.

Last month’s gold medal will be added to an already im­pressive collection for Bow­den, including a Paralympic gold medal (2006), and a World Sledge Hockey Challenge gold medal (2007).

And while the World Cham­pionships mark the official end of the sledge hockey season, Bowden says the sport will keep him busy at least for a little while yet.

Last weekend he was in Cornwall for a sledge hockey demonstration as part of the RBC Cup, Canada’s national Junior A hockey champion-ship. And later this summer he will take part in a sledge hockey skills video for Hockey Canada.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said of the video. “It’s a big step for the sport, because we’ve never been involved in anything like that before.”

For the last several years Bowden has contemplated quit­ting either hockey or basketball at the international level, and now it seems he has made a decision.

This weekend he is in British Columbia, as part of team Ontario, competing in the   National Championships for wheelchair basketball.

But while he said he looks forward to the tournament and playing wheelchair basketball to stay in shape, he is going to focus solely on sledge hockey from now on.

“I think I have dropped one sport,” he said. “The choice was made for me.”

Being cut from a national team is difficult for anyone, but Bowden said what makes it more awkward is that “there was some politics involved” in the decision to let him go from Canada’s wheelchair basketball team. He added some of those who made the team considered appealing the decision with the coaching staff.

Bowden said he thinks the real reason for his dismissal was the coaches believed he spent too much time with sledge hockey.

“I’m one of the fastest players, if not the fastest,” he said. “I just can’t realize why I got cut.” Bowden stressed that he did not want to “bash” the team, and said he has come to terms with the decision.

“I’m just going to enjoy my summer and try to get better [at sledge hockey],” he said, adding that team is already preparing for the Paralympics in Vancouver. “Our goal is to dominate in 2010.”

 

Vol 41 Issue 20

 
 

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