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Sports This Week: Canada to send women's team to Paris for 2023 Wheelchair Rugby Cup

YORKTON - Wheelchair Rugby Canada recently announced Canada will send a women’s team to Paris to compete in the 2023 Women’s Cup.
Ashley Munro will be part of an historic team headed to Paris.

YORKTON - Wheelchair Rugby Canada recently announced Canada will send a women’s team to Paris to compete in the 2023 Women’s Cup.

The event will mark Canada’s first international competition dedicated to female wheelchair rugby athletes, participating in the event’s third edition.

“They have the tournament for some time in Paris, but Canada hasn’t put together a team before” explained Ashley Munro, an Alberta athlete who will be on the first women’s team to represent Canada.

“I’m so super excited.”

Munro said creating the team is an important opportunity for women and the sport.

“I just want everyone to know how grateful I am to have this opportunity to travel with these amazing women, to represent Canada, and meet the other incredible women attending the tournament,” she said.

“It’s a special moment to have enough women to put an all women’s tournament together, and I hope it encourages other girls and women to come out and try wheelchair rugby.”

Munro, who lives in Calgary said the number of women in wheelchair rugby is still rather low, counting herself fortunate that there are four on her local team.

But to put together an all women’s team capable of playing internationally is a big one.

“It’s just getting enough people interested at that level,” said Munro, adding the effort had been discussed for a few years, but was put on the backburner as so many things as COVID struck.

To create the team is less about winning in Paris, and more about continuing to encourage women to participate in the sport. While a few women do make international rosters in what are essentially co-ed possible teams, playing as a team will open doors.

“I think it encourages other people, to have more women wanting to play,” said Munro.

“The sport is continuously growing and having women highlighted like this is extraordinary to see.”

Still there has been significant growth in the women’s game; the 2022 World Championships saw an historic 13 female athletes descend on Veijle, Denmark – three were on Australia’s Gold Medal Squad.

Of course the pool of athletes is a smaller one.

“In general there a lot more men with disabilities than there are women,” observed Munro.

Munro said while the overall sport of wheelchair rugby is a welcoming one, and her own experience has been one where players, both male and female have been helpful, having a team of women is still positive.

There will be a greater commonality of experience with other female athletes that can be important in helping attract and help new players adapt to the game, offered Munro.

“Having a tournament like this will help reach other women who are interested,” said Munro.

It is a sentiment echoed by National Team member, Melanie Labelle in a Wheelchair Rugby Canada release.

“The spotlight we have has the potential to create that spark in newcomers,” she said. “Every woman [on this team] has the opportunity to be a leader for the next generation.

In her own case, Munro said she was actually tested to see what para sport might suit her, and it was suggested she try wheelchair rugby.

“I said ‘why not’,” she said, adding she loved the camaraderie of the team aspect of the sport.

While the Canadian team will be a first, Munro said she hopes it is only a first outing for what becomes an ongoing program.

“Hopefully having all women teams and tournaments become commonplace in the near future,” she said.

The event in Paris will be held March 8-12 and will be hosted by the French Wheelchair Rugby Federation.