At 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
By Pat Payton
RED DEER, Alta. – St. Marys native Eric Voss recently helped Team Ontario capture the silver medals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, being held in this Alberta city from Feb. 15 to March 3.
For Voss, who turned 23 while in Red Deer, it was his third Canada Games competition in his wheelchair basketball career.
Voss was a leader on the Ontario Under-24 basketball team and one of the top scorers in the Winter Games tournament. The former St. Mikes student finished with 87 total points – 67 points and 20 assists.
In their opening games, Team Ontario defeated Nova Scotia 72-23 and Newfoundland-Labrador 65-23. Voss had 24 points in the first two games. After losing 59-54 to Alberta, Ontario completed preliminary-round play with a 63-39 win over British Columbia.
In the semi-finals, Ontario ended a 24-game winning streak for Quebec by defeating their Eastern neighbours 48-46. In the gold-medal final, Alberta edged Ontario 51-48 in another very close match. Quebec later took the bronze medals.
Eric Voss was born with the spinal nerve condition that keeps him bound to a wheelchair, for the most part. “I haven’t known anything different,” he recently told Chris Welner of HipCheck Media. “I’ve just lived my life. I’m not searching for something better or different; I just made do with what I’ve got. I’m okay with that.”
Ontario coach Kathy Ludwig has watched Voss grow from a bench player into a confident young man.
“It’s great to see that he has grown up and matured, on and off the court,” Ludwig told Welner. “Canada Games gives them an opportunity to interact with athletes from all the other provinces. Living away from parents and being part of a team allows kids to develop that independence they need in life. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”
Trains full-time in Toronto
Voss, meanwhile, trains full-time (five to six hours a day) with the national wheelchair basketball team in Toronto, and he hopes his Games experience will help him earn a full-time spot on the Canadian roster in the next couple of years.
“I try to lead by example,” he told Welner in the recent interview. “I always say thank you to volunteers because they do a lot for us here. On court, I try to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and not to get too nervous. It’s a lot different here playing in front of 1,300 people than the 10 people who normally show up for a game.”
Just a couple of highlights for Voss in his relatively short wheelchair basketball career are: He helped Team Canada win gold in Mexico at the U-23 World Junior national championships in 2013, and being named an all-star at the 2012 Junior East Regional championships in Halifax. He was only 15 at the time.
Last year, he was named an all-star at 2018 Junior National championships in Longueuil, Que.
Voss discovered wheelchair basketball when he was just 10 years old, thanks to a friend of his father Matt who encouraged him to come out to a practice and give the sport a try.
He developed his skills with the London Forest City Flash Junior program and joined the London Forest City Flyers club team, competing within the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League.
In 2013, Voss propelled his career to the next level and became the youngest player on the Canadian Men’s U-23 national team.
Off the court, Voss dedicates his spare time to raising awareness for wheelchair basketball and disability by taking part in sport demonstrations at schools in Ontario. His role model is Rick Hansen, and he was a medal bearer during the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay.
Note: Eric, son of Matt and Heather Voss, competes in a tournament this weekend against the Puerto Rico national team, University of Illinois, and the University of Edinburgh Pennsylvania at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.