Anderson sets sights on third straight Paralympic gold medal

Pat Anderson has had a pretty illustrious career in the sport of wheelchair basketball.

Regarded as one of the best players in the world, the Fergus native says his career is already complete, having dominated the international game with his Canadian teammates for much of the last decade.

But make no mistake about it -  Anderson, 28, will be disappointed with anything less than a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing next month.

“Our goal is to win three [Paralympic gold medals] in a row because it’s never been done before,” Anderson said last week. The team captured gold in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens in 2004, not to mention winning several other international tournaments in between.

“We want to wrap up a pretty special era in Canadian wheelchair basketball,”  Anderson added.

However, bringing home the gold medal this time won’t be easy. The team will face some tough competition – notably from Australia and especially the United States team, which has defeated the Canadians the last few times the teams faced one another.

“It’s impossible to simulate their speed and athleticism in practice,” Anderson said of the Americans.

Yet practice will remain the name of the game for Anderson over the next four weeks. This week the national junior team held a preparation camp at Humber College in Toronto and the team will depart for China on Aug. 23, where it will practice and have warm-up games before the official start of the Paralympics on Sept. 6.

And even before all that, Anderson was one of the organizers of daily players-only practices last week in Fergus at Centre Wellington District High School.

Eight of 12 of the team’s players attended the weekday workouts. Some stayed with Anderson’s family, while others stayed with former teammate Brad Bowden in Orton as well as with other billets, and player Joey Johnson stayed with his in-laws in Fergus.

Anderson said it was great to train without coaches in “a less structured environment,” where players were free to “think outside the box.”

The team did something similar in 2004 before the Paralympics in Athens, and Anderson hinted the team’s success four years ago may not have been a coincidence. He explained the week allows the players to bond off the court as well, which can be great for team chemistry.

Last week in Fergus Anderson was clearly the most dominating player on the court, displaying the speed, agility and superior shooting skills that have caused many experts to label him the most talented player in the world.

Despite taking last year off from the national team for a mental break and to concentrate on studying music in Vancouver, where he now lives, Anderson said he was able to jump back into the national program because  playing in a club league kept him in game shape.

He enjoyed the week in Fergus, where he still visits family a couple times a year.

And the next time he returns he hopes he’ll be sporting another gold medal.