ONPARA Announces Team Ontario Wheelchair Basketball Roster for 2023 Canada Games

Wheelchair basketball athletes and staff selected to represent Ontario in PEI

(December 9, 2022 – Toronto, ON) The Ontario Para Network (ONPARA) is proud to formally announce the team selected to represent Ontario in wheelchair basketball at the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Following a series of selection camps that look place between July – October, 2022, 12 of Ontario’s top wheelchair basketball athletes were chosen to represent the province. The team will be led by an experienced, well-respected, and skilled coaching staff which includes Head Coach Kathy Ludwig, serving in her 4th Canada Games and her 2nd as Head Coach. She is joined on the bench by returning Assistant Coach Josh Davies, Apprentice Coach Andrea Foessel, and Team Manager Josée Matte.

“I am very excited and honoured to be coaching such a great group of young athletes,” said Ludwig. “They continue to impress us with their hard work and dedication. I am so proud of this team and I can’t wait to see them on court in PEI.” Kathy Ludwig is the first female Head Coach in the history of the Ontario Junior wheelchair basketball program.

The athletes named to Team Ontario are as follows:

Team Ontario

Name Hometown Home Club
Laura Calovini Brampton Cruisers Sports
Nasif Chowdhury Toronto GHDSA Vipers
Himmat Dhillon Brampton Cruisers Sports
Cole Heessels Exeter London Forest City Flyers
Rosie Long Oakville GHDSA Vipers
Charlotte McElroy Hamilton GHDSA Vipers
Broden Nagle London London Forest City Flyers
Desmond O’Shaughnessy Carp OCWSA
Ibrahim Odza Scarborough Variety Village Rolling Rebels
Grace Plumb Brampton Cruisers Sports
Travis Topping Vienna London Forest City Flyers
Sana Worley Brampton GHDSA Vipers
Mercyline Nyakundi Hamilton GHDSA Vipers
Tyler Bickford Ottawa OCWSA

Wheelchair basketball provincial teams are open to athletes of all genders, with and without physical disabilities, making the sport one of the most inclusive in Canada. Junior-age wheelchair basketball players at the 2023 Games must be born in or after 1999 (24 years or younger).

Ushering in a new generation of players

Ontario has historically been a top contender at the national level and in the Canada Games. They claimed silver in 2019 after a thrilling final and hard-fought battle with hosts Alberta. They also captured silvers in 2011 in Halifax, NS and 2007 in Whitehorse, YT, and a bronze in 2003 in Bathurst-Campbellton, NB, all three times getting edged out by long-time rivals, the powerhouse Équipe Québec.

However, Team Ontario is in a unique and unprecedented position heading into the 2023 Games as all twelve athletes will be competing in the wheelchair basketball competition at the Canada Games for the first time in their careers. With the overwhelming majority of the 2019 squad aging out of their junior eligibility, this all-rookie team will undoubtedly be making its mark as the youngest team in the tournament and gaining invaluable experience along the way.

A young woman holds the Ontario flag and wears a bronze medal around her neck
Credit: Team Ontario

While this team might be new to the Games, two members – multi-sport athletes Laura Calovini and Rosie Long – will be able to tap into their recent multisport games experience and share their insight with their teammates. Both competed this past summer in para-athletics at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, ON. Calovini, a thrower, earned a bronze in the shot put and a 4th place finish in the discus, while Long competed in wheelchair racing, claiming two medals – a gold and silver in the 100m and 1500m events, respectively. Both are members of para-athletics program at Cruisers Sports, based out of the Halton-Peel Region.

When asked what lessons she could share with her teammates, Calovini said, “I learned you need to believe in yourself and to be open to learning from your teammates and coaches. It’s really important to be prepared mentally as well as physically to compete at this level, but being a part of Team Ontario is really special, so enjoy every second!”

a young female wheelchair basketball player ready to shoot the ball
Grace Plumb

The team has been training together monthly since July and have had the opportunity to play some exhibition games against local club teams to simulate the competitive game environment expected in PEI next February. “I am looking forward to seeing how the team has progressed from last year’s Junior Nationals to now, as well as seeing all our work finally culminating,” said co-captain and Brampton native Grace Plumb. “Basketball has been a vital part of my life since I first joined my home club. I never expected to be able to have this experience but with hard work and good support I can say I am overwhelmed and cannot wait for the Games.”

a young male wheelchair basketball player prepares to pass the ball
Cole Heessels

When asked about what it means to represent Ontario and compete in the Canada Games, co-captain Cole Heessels said, “It’s an honour to be part of Team Ontario and represent my province. I’m excited about the life experience and opportunities that develop by being part of the team.” The 16 year old from Exeter attributes the team’s development on the hard work put in off the court, such as increased cardio sessions, as well as improved communication and bonding as a team. “Our coaches have been challenging us. I’m eager to see how much we have improved since Nationals last June.”

The wheelchair basketball competition is scheduled during the first week of the Canada Games, from February 18-25 at the Chi-Wan Young Sports Centre at the University of Prince Edward Island. The Opening Ceremony will take place on Saturday, February 18. Tickets, merchandise, and schedules are now available online at www.2023canadagames.ca

a wheelchair basketball team. the players are of mixed genders and various ethnicities. they are wearing red.
2023 Team Ontario Juniors

About the Ontario Para Network

Formerly known as the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association, our mission at the Ontario Para Network (ONPARA) is to grow opportunities for participation in adaptive sports across Ontario. As the governing body for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis in the province, we strive to offer opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in recreational, competitive, and high performance programs. We lead, develop, support and advocate for athletes, coaches and volunteers to build strong and inclusive sport communities. We also deliver extensive outreach and education programs targeting schools as well as individuals and clinicians at rehabilitation hospitals and the broader health care sector.

About Team Ontario
Team Ontario is made up of athletes, coaches and managers who represent Ontario with pride at the Canada Games. Our athletes have qualified through a formal selection process and will compete against the best athletes from across Canada. Members of Team Ontario are a valued part of our sport community and are the next generation of national, international and Olympic champions. Follow Team Ontario on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @GoTeamOntario

About the Canada Games
Held once every two years, alternating between winter and summer, the Canada Games are the largest multi-sport event in the country for Canadian amateur athletes. The Games are inclusive and bring together more than 2,000 able-bodied athletes and athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities. Each Games features two weeks of competition, between 16 and 19 sports, approximately 4,600 summer and up to 3,600 winter participants (athletes, coaches and managers), and over 5,000 volunteers. The Canada Games strengthen the fabric of Canada through the power of sport by sparking greatness in the next generation of athletes and leaders and by creating enduring legacies that transform communities from coast to coast to coast.