After crashing out of the 2010 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships and a seventh-place finish, Canada's Richard Peter feels he has something to prove in London in his final Paralympics.
As one of the country's most decorated disabled athletes with two Paralympic gold medals, in addition to a silver picked up at the 2008 Beijing Games, Peter, 39, is one of three veterans on the Canadian team, along Dave Durepos, 42, and Joey Johnson, 37, making their fifth Games appearance.
With the Paralympics wheelchair basketball tournament tipping off August 30, and likely the swansong for the veteran trio, a surprise quarterfinal loss to Italy in the last World Championships still weighs heavy; Australia, the team that beat Canada for the gold medal in Beijing, went on to win the tournament.
"We're definitely a veteran crew, and we're getting a bit older as every year goes, but that just means we've got a lot of experience. We've got a lot of young guys that are coming (up) too," said the Vancouver-based Peter, the lone aboriginal on the Canada team.
"We've got a really good mix with our team. We definitely hope to be in the final gold medal game ... it could be anybody so we're preparing for all different teams."
The Canadians will undoubtedly be stronger in London with the return of Patrick Anderson. Considered one of the sport's superstars, the 32-year-old quit the national team after Beijing to pursue a music career. He then returned last year following offers to play semi-pro in Australia and Germany.
"He's arguably one of the top players in the world. It'll be great," Peter said of Anderson who helped Canada to a bronze at last year's Parapan American Games in Mexico. "He's definitely a benefit and helps out our program a lot, so we'll definitely have to work hard to get there. That's what we've been doing in working hard as a team to keep everything organized and it will be fun."
Like Anderson, Peter played basketball professionally following the Beijing Games, spending two years in Germany and another 18 months in Italy. With a schedule that included playing up to 50 games a year against the world's best players, he called the experience invaluable and something he wouldn't have been able to do in Canada where there are no high-level leagues.
As someone who has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of four after getting run over by a school bus, Peter said he's undecided with what he will do following his basketball career. Going back to university is an option, while working with and inspiring aboriginal youth is another.
"That's what I try to portray when I go and talk to some of the youth ... just to let them know that even though there's a lot of different barriers, and a lot of battles out there, you still can overcome them. I never thought that I would end up representing Canada and representing Cowichan tribes (on Vancouver Island) at the highest level and winning gold medals, so I'm definitely enjoying every moment I can and to get out there and represent my people the best I can," he said.
"Whether I'm that role model, I totally enjoy that and I know being one of the only First Nations athletes out there, that's what I work hard for to make sure that I can still succeed at any level. So it's definitely been a joy throughout my career that I've had a lot of different challenges and battles and was able to overcome."
With Anderson's absence at the last World Championships in Birmingham, Peter stepped up to lead Canada in assists and field goal shooting percentage, as well as minutes played. But despite his past record and accomplishments, he notes in London competition will be fierce for a medal of any color.
The Americans, a traditional powerhouse in the sport since wheelchair basketball was introduced to the Paralympic roster in 1960, haven't won a medal since the Sydney 2000 Games, while Turkey and Spain are rising forces.
"We know we've worked hard but a lot of different teams are much stronger, so it's still a pretty open field," Peter said. "There's Australia and the US of course, and Great Britain is another strong team, so anyone of those teams can be in the final. But there's a lot of other teams who can surprise us and end up in the final also, so we got to prepare for every game."