Joel (L) and Ben at the Opening Ceremony of the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games // Joel (L) and Ben competing as kids.
Teammates Joel Ewert (Prince George) and Ben Hagkull (Chilliwack) have forged a nearly 20-year-long friendship both on and off the hardwood. The two met at an event when they were five years old and have been side-by-side at sport camps and provincial, national and international competitions ever since.
“It’s been a really cool relationship,” says Ewert. “It’s great going through these experiences with one of your best buddies. As a person with a disability, sometimes it’s tough to find someone who is going through your same experiences. But we’ve been able to share all that together.”
“It’s been really great to get to know Joel,” says Hagkull. “We’re brothers by now. To be able to compete alongside him and to share triumphs and failures with him, is a very cool opportunity.”
The BC Games alumni are attending their third Canada Games. After placing seventh at the 2015 Games and sixth in 2019, this time, they’re aiming to be on the podium. “I think that we need to take that next step and come out on top and bring home a medal,” says Ewert.
Team BC is seeded first for the PEI Games after winning B.C.’s first national title at the junior national wheelchair basketball championships last June, also held in Charlottetown. With an experienced squad, Hagkull says they have high expectations for the Canada Games tournament. “Being the team to beat presents an exciting challenge for sure. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”
The 2023 Canada Games is likely one of the last opportunities for Ewert and Hagkull to be wheelchair basketball teammates. Ewert’s sport competition focus is shifting to wheelchair rugby, as he aims for a future Paralympic Games. Hagkull is continuing with wheelchair basketball and is hoping to make Canada’s team for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
Both say the task at hand is to get the most out of being part of Team BC at a multisport Games. “I’m sure it will be a little emotional knowing that this will be my last time at the Canada Games Opening Ceremony,” says Ewert. For Hagkull, playing in front of fans from across the country is what makes the Canada Games so special. “Being at a Canada Games with the crowds and cheering is a big opportunity to feed off the energy and to give that energy back to make it an exciting game.”
Wheelchair basketball joined the Canada Winter Games program in 1995. It is a mixed gender event. The competition begins on February 20 with the finals on February 25.
Find out more about the Team BC roster.
- Filed by Sam Corea (@sammy_sez), Team BC Communications Staff
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