A Vic West resident is on a roll after being selected to represent Canada at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto this summer.
Miranda Biletski was named to the national wheelchair rugby team, a sport that is making its debut at the Games this year.
“It was super exciting. Our team kind of waited until the last minute so it was a little drawn out and people were getting anxious, but it was really exciting,” said Biletski on making the team.
Biletski will join 11 members of the Canadian team to compete against five other teams (Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil and the U.S.) at the Games.
In wheelchair rugby, also known as “murderball,” the objective is to score the most goals by carrying, dribbling or passing the ball towards the opponent’s end. Contact between wheelchairs is allowed and players frequently collide as they attempt to stop their opponents and take control of the ball.
Biletski, a former competitive swimmer in Regina, was originally injured when she was 16 years old. She dove into the pool at the University of Regina during a practice and hit the bottom, suffering a broken C-6 vertebra.
“It was definitely tough at first, missing a semester of high school and showing back up and all of the sudden you’re in a wheelchair,” she said.
For the athlete, wheelchair rugby became her “saving grace.”
“I had a bunch of really good guys around me when I first had my accident and then the documentary Murderball came out about four months after my injury,” she said. “I went to watch that it in theatres and I thought ‘oh, I have to play that’. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
She competed in her first nationals in Grade 12 and has excelled at the sport ever since, competing in 10 national tournaments and picking up a silver medal with the national team at the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships last year.
She even moved to Victoria from Saskatchewan about a year ago for more intense training.
“The sport itself it amazing, but with the group of guys, we’re like family which is definitely a huge added bonus and makes it fun,” said Biletski, adding that the team has stayed the same for the past few years.
Kevin Orr, the national team’s head coach, said being the only female on the team isn’t a barrier for Biletski.
“She’s got good speed, good stamina, good passing ability. The best thing about her is that she has a confidence about her that passes over to her teammates and she helps bring that team cohesion together,” he said.
“They have good team chemistry and I think that has a lot to do with her demeanor and the way that she works with the athletes.”
Now the team Biletski and the rest of the team will set its sights on the Parapan Am Games in Toronto from Aug. 7-15. The team who takes home gold will also qualify for the 2016 summer paralympics in Rio.
“The expectation is definitely winning, less than winning would be a big disappointment for us,” said Biletski.