Feser shoots for Paralympic gold
Wheelchair basketball player hoops it up for Canada at 2012 Paralympic Summer Games
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 06:00 am
St. Albert wheelchair basketball player Tara Feser is preparing for a new role with Team Canada at her second Paralympic Summer Games.
The veteran of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China is one of three Canadians on the national team classified as a 4.5 player with normal trunk movement in all directions and is able to reach side to side with no limitations.
“It’s going to be very different than Beijing. I’m not going to be the 12th man off the bench. I see it very similar to what I did in worlds, where I will be the 4.5 coming off the bench if we have only one 4.5 or a double 4.5 line-up,” Feser said. “I’m more of that player you can put out for a pressing line-up or a player you can put out for a press break line-up. It’s whenever I’m needed.”
Feser, 32, averaged 7.6 minutes in seven games in Beijing, while shooting nine-for-23 in field goals and pulling down 17 defensive rebounds.
“I had some good minutes but they were minutes when we were safe and the minutes I’m going to be getting are not because they’re safe, but they need me to make it safe,” Feser said. “I have to make sure that every minute I have on that court I give it 100 per cent because I may get two minutes or 20 minutes in that game. It all depends on the other teams, too because they have many different line-ups that they can throw at us.”
Canada finished fifth overall in Beijing, the first time the national team failed to make the Paralympic podium after an unprecedented run of consecutive gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and bronze in 2004.
“Our goal is gold and we can’t be afraid to say we want gold. With this team we know we can go out there and come home with a gold medal,” said Feser, the team MVP for the 2009 NCAA champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
Canada is ranked third in the world after winning bronze at the 2010 championship.
“At worlds there were two teams above us [United States and Germany] and we think those two teams are beatable. We want to have our national anthem being played and not being the third team on that podium,” said Feser, co-captain for Canada at worlds.
The 12-player roster for the 2012 Paralympics includes 11 returnees from the 2011 silver medal team at the Parapan American games and six players with Paralympic experience.
“It’s a very nice balance, from our top player all the way to the 12th player. We don’t have too many people coming in brand new but we also don’t have too many people who are veterans who see this as just another Paralympics,” Feser said. “We have quite a few players, like myself, who played their first Paralympics in Beijing, and our role in Beijing is not the same role as we’re going to see in London. I see that as a huge motivator for everyone. We all have to now step up just a little bit more.”
The national team is spending most of the summer training in Winnipeg before the Paralympics start Aug. 29 in London, England.
“This is the first time any Paralympic team has ever centralized so it’s a huge step for our team and our program. Before Beijing and before the world cup we had weeks here, weeks there with the team, but we never really had a long period of time where we can get to know each other on and off the court and I think that camaraderie that is going to push us over the top,” Feser said. “All of our players were playing a lot of basketball before we got here and practising five or six times a week so that part of basketball is still there, but now we just need to gel together as a team.”
The players practised twice a day for two weeks leading up to this weekend’s North American Cup in Alabama, where Canada will play the United States and Germany.
After a training session in Mexico with the Mexican national team, the Canadians will take a week off before regrouping in Winnipeg for the rest of the summer. The last tune-up for the Paralympics is a stint in Europe.
“We’re all feeling sore and tired but we’re also feeling pumped up and ready to go. I know it’s kind of weird that way but it’s how excited we’re feeling. It’s the last stage before London and we’re ready to put in the hard work that we need to in the next three months,” Feser said.
Playing in pain
A tender right shoulder isn’t stopping the 2010 Wheelchair Basketball Canada’s female athlete of the year from playing at the Paralympics again.
“I’m not 100 per cent and I don’t think I ever will be. I’m just going to play through the pain and wait until it falls off basically,” Feser said. “I’m actually a lot happier where I am now than where I thought I would be.
“Training two times a day I thought my arm would just be falling off but it’s actually doing really, really well. I just have to listen to what the shoulder is telling me and take time off and rest. The physio they’re providing us here is great for my shoulder, too.”
The first division player and co-coach with the Trier Dolphins, a semi-pro coed wheelchair basketball club in Germany, is constantly reminded of her sore shoulder on the court.
“It’s mainly if I over extend on a pass or I’m touching really far out or if I fall on it. I could play with no pain and just kind of wheel slowly or not do really hard stops but I can’t do that when I’m on the court. I have to give it 100 per cent and when you push that little extra is when you feel it. It’s almost a good motivator for me,” said Feser, who played standup basketball in high school with the Queen Elizabeth Knights but surgery after graduation to a dislocating kneecap prevents her from running or jumping.