Mixed results for Feser at Paralympics
Canada places sixth in women's wheelchair basketball
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 15, 2012 06:00 am
The bounces didn’t go Canada’s way at the Summer Paralympic Games in women’s wheelchair basketball.
Canada, ranked No. 3 in the world prior to the London Paralympics, finished sixth out of 10 teams at the international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.
“I’m happy with how we played. Unfortunately it’s sports and it happened the way it did,” said Tara Feser of St. Albert. “The top six teams were so close. Some things went our way and some things didn’t.”
At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Canada placed fifth overall after consecutive gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and bronze in 2004.
“I wouldn’t say this was more disappointing than Beijing,” Feser said. “I think we were fully prepared to play the games.”
Canada’s record in London was 4-3 after losing 73-70 to China in the consolation playoffs. At halftime it was deadlocked at 29 apiece. China outscored Canada 18-13 in the third quarter, but the Canadians rallied to take a three-point lead with three minutes left in the game. Clutch free throw shooting by the Chinese guaranteed the Asian nation fifth place.
“China is a team that not a lot of people knew much about,” said Feser, who was pointless in 4:43 minutes of playing time. “They’re a very good team. They had one player with 20 points, one with 24 and another had 25. It’s hard to stop three players like that on the court. Usually the other teams we see have one or two players who are high scoring but to have three of them that play all the time is really tough. It was something we weren’t used to seeing.
“They were also a very fast team and very disciplined. We couldn’t throw something out at them that they hadn’t seen.”
Canada was relegated to the consolation round after dropping a 67-55 decision to the United States in the quarter-finals.
It was 21-10 for Canada in the first quarter, but with the Americans applying full-court pressure throughout the game the Canadians were unable to hang on to the lead. The Americans took control in the third quarter when Canada got into foul trouble.
“It was very bizarre, that’s the only way to describe it,” Feser said. “We came out strong and then it fell apart, but not at one point did I think we were not going to make it to the semifinals. I think that was the same with the rest of our team, except as the minutes ticked down the pressure came on and we didn’t stick with what our coaches had been working on in the last two years and it kind of fell apart.
“After that game you don’t know what to say. You feel empty, but we had to pick ourselves up and bring it back for the next game.”
Canada came out firing against Mexico in the consolation semifinal with a 16-point run to lead 30-4 after the first quarter, enroute to the 74-53 triumph.
Feser hit a field goal and played about 12 1/2 minutes against Mexico after she was held scoreless against the Americans while logging about nine minutes.
Third in pool play
In pool A Canada tied for first with Australia and the Netherlands at 3-1 but was seeded third in the crossover playoffs. Germany, the gold medallist, was 4-0 in pool B, followed by the Americans at 3-1 and China at 2-2.
The point differential tiebreaker pitted Canada against the Americans in the quarter-final.
“It was just so tight. If we had been second then we would’ve crossed over to play Mexico [1-3], which probably would’ve guaranteed us a medal spot,” said Feser, the 2010 Wheelchair Basketball Canada’s female athlete of the year.
Canada’s first game was the 70-59 loss to the Netherlands, the bronze medallists. Canada fell behind early and was never able to grab the lead. The Dutch broke it open with an 18-point run and led by 15 at quarter time. Canada pulled to within seven at halftime, but were unable to handle Mariska Beijer. She scored 21 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 34 points and 14 rebounds.
“We just had one bad quarter against the Netherlands and that was right off the start,” said Feser, who scored eight points in 18:16 of action. “That was probably my best game. Maybe I was just excited because of all the hype and all the adrenaline going.”
Canada then won three in a row by scores of 57-50 against Australia, the silver medallists, 65-61 against Brazil and 67-50 against Great Britain.
Feser was one of three Canadians on the team classified as 4.5 player, with normal trunk movement in all directions while able to reach side to side with no limitations. She played standup basketball in high school with the Queen Elizabeth Knights but surgery after graduation to fix a dislocating kneecap prevents her from running or jumping.
“I’m happy with the minutes I got. I was put in situations where I had to try and fix things, even though we were already kind of in the hole sometimes. It was a tough role for me but I think I did as well as I could in those situations,” said Feser, one of 11 returnees from the 2011 silver medallists at the Parapan American Games and six players with Paralympic experience on the 12-player roster.
Feser, 32, said the buzz surrounding the Paralympics in London was bigger than in Beijing.
“There was just such a huge hype about the Games. I found in Beijing people knew about it but there wasn’t as much excitement. I think it was because everyone just bought in so well with the Olympics and it just carried over into the Paralympics and they were very excited about it,” said Feser, who averaged 7.6 minutes in seven games in Beijing as the 12th player off the bench in her first season on the national team.
“I’m not sure if it is because the Paralympics are growing across the world or if it’s just because London did such a great job, but I found it was very welcoming and it was really nice to see so many people excited before you even got started. They did an amazing job of advertising across the city and making sure that everyone around London knew about it. There were so many people on the streets who came up and talked to you and asked if you were an athlete.”
The opening and closing ceremonies, which featured musical acts Coldplay, Jay-Z and Rhianna, were memories to last a lifetime.
“The opening ceremonies are always my favourite, just walking through the tunnel and hearing the roar of the crowd. That’s always been my highlight from Beijing and it’s the same highlight from London,” Feser said. “The closing ceremonies were amazing as well. To have such big names come out and support us was kind of cool, as well as the fireworks afterwards. They put a lot of effort into it and you could tell they valued having a pretty cool closing ceremonies for us.”
After two seasons as a first division player and co-coach with the Trier Dolphins, a semi-pro coed wheelchair basketball club in Germany, Feser will take a month off before resuming training for the 2014 world championship in Toronto.
“I just need to enjoy life back at home with family and friends,” said the team MVP for the 2009 NCAA champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide. “I’m going to train locally and give back to every community and organization I’ve taken from and help them out.”