I met a guy by the name of Brad Bowden at the Canadian Sport Awards in 2007. People might know him as a member of the Canadian sledge hockey team but at the time he was there representing the 2006 Paralympic Champion sledge hockey team and the World Champion wheelchair basketball team, both of whom were nominated for male team of the year. My initial thought was that it must be some kind of first for an athlete to be a Paralympic Champion in one sport and a World Champion in another concurrently. It also occurred to me what a shame it was that so few people would be aware of this accomplishment.
Brad introduced my wife and I to Patrick Anderson in a very matter-of-fact way as “the best wheelchair basketball player in the world.” I reacted to that comment as you might expect. I was certainly impressed but really had no concept of what that meant until the next day at the “celebrity” wheelchair basketball game. Our team was made up of members of the local media, a few sports administrators and myself. We were up against Brad and Patrick as well as two members of the women’s national team, Chantal Benoit and Lisa Franks, rounded out with a few members of the Manitoba Provincial team.
Brad introduced my wife and I to Patrick Anderson in a very matter-of-fact way as “the best wheelchair basketball player in the world.”
Myself, I’ve seen wheelchair basketball before and I knew that in recent years Canada has really dominated at the world level so I wasn’t expecting to score a lot of points or even see the ball quite frankly. The game started pretty much as I expected it to with the national team members showing everyone how the game is played followed by a merciful re-division of the teams. What struck me very profoundly that day was we were there with someone doing what they were born to do. In all sincerity, and in the truest sense of the word, Patrick Anderson was an awesome player and it hit me again how Brad had introduced Patrick the night before as “the best wheelchair basketball player in the world.”
It would be impossible for me to describe how absolutely dominating a player Patrick was but I will say a few things. The speed at which he moved around the court honestly made me wonder if I was doing something wrong. On more than one occasion he swung around another competitive player from behind and simply took the ball from them. He did this to me as well and I’ll tell you, it makes you feel like you’re about 6 years old. You didn’t really have any chance of doing the same thing to him because even if you could catch him, he would palm the ball and hold it on the opposite side of his chair from you. He passed behind his back accurately without any apparent effort and what I found most striking was when he would literally bounce his chair over a foot in distance to the left or right to get a rebound or a loose ball. Essentially he could jump in his wheelchair.
Over time I’ve thought a lot about that experience and I still can’t quite put it into perspective. I’ve always been someone who picks up sports really quickly. I’ve been on provincial and national teams for several different sports, I’ve known and trained along side many different world leading athletes and I’ve gone to two Olympics myself and I’ve quite honestly never seen anything like it. For this reason I refer to Patrick as the best athlete I’ve ever met. I finally had the chance to interview Patrick earlier this summer and todays post is the first of three parts about him and his sport.
Thanks very much Patrick for your time and sharing your thoughts and experiences for Sport At Its Best.