4-time Olympian Natalie Achonwa leads Canadian women’s basketball team headed to Paris

The excitement and readiness was evident as Kayla Alexander looked ahead to the Paris Olympics.

Alexander, Natalie Achonwa and Kia Nurse headline the Canadian women’s basketball team announced Tuesday morning. It will be Alexander’s second Olympics but first time with spectators as the Tokyo Games took place in 2021 during the pandemic.

“Same level of excitement, for sure,” a beaming Alexander said at the Canadian Olympic Committee offices. “Feels different because the last one was COVID so didn’t have the full experience, I’m looking forward to having that this time around.

“But the joy and excitement and just the privilege of being able to represent your country, that never changes. That’s still something that I’m just overflowing with right now.”

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The fifth-ranked Canadians qualified for the Games back in February at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Hungary. Canada went 1-2 but was helped out by fourth-ranked Spain defeating host Hungary 73-72 in the final game of the tournament.

It will be the fourth straight Games the women have qualified for. Canada is in Group B alongside third-ranked Australia, host and seventh-ranked France and 12th-ranked Nigeria.

The tournament is scheduled to run from July 28 to Aug. 11, with the group phase to be played in Lille, France. The top two teams from each group and the two best third-place teams qualify for the final phase, which will be held in Paris.

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Canada, which opens the tournament July 29 against France, is looking to redeem itself after a disappointing ninth-place finish in Tokyo.

WATCH | Alexander joins CBC News Network after Paris Olympic selection:

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Since then, Canada placed fourth at the World Cup in 2022 and took bronze at the AmeriCup in 2023. The fourth-place result at the World Cup was Canada’s best since a bronze-medal showing in 1986.

“We’re definitely hungry,” guard Sami Hill said. “It’s been our goal, we’ve set it since the last Olympics, and especially since World Cup when we got a taste of the semifinals and then super close to the bronze medal and finished fourth.

“We have our sights set on being on the podium and we’re going to do everything we can to get there.”

The group is expected to be at full strength, a first in some time. Canada is often missing players at tournaments due to professional or school commitments or injury.

The roster boasts a mix of veterans and youth.

Achonwa, who is set to become the first Canadian women’s basketball player to appear in her fourth Games, is one of eight on the team with previous Olympic experience. She is also one of five WNBA players along with Nurse, Edwards, Laeticia Amihere and Bridget Carleton.

Meanwhile, guard Syla Swords is making her first Olympic appearance at 18 years old, having just finished high school. Swords is a five-star recruit that’s heading to Michigan in the fall, while former five-star recruit and Notre Dame sophomore Cassandre Prosper also made the roster.

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Canada roster

  • Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ont.)
  • Kayla Alexander (Milton, Ont.)
  • Laeticia Amihere (Mississauga, Ont.)
  • Bridget Carleton (Chatham, Ont.)
  • Shay Colley (Brampton, Ont.)
  • Aaliyah Edwards (Kingston, Ont.)
  • Yvonne Ejim (Calgary)
  • Nirra Fields (Montreal)
  • Sami Hill (Toronto)
  • Kia Nurse (Hamilton)
  • Cassandre Prosper (Montreal)
  • Syla Swords (Sudbury, Ont.)

Canada’s boxing medal hopes rest on Thibeault, Sanford

Boxing Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee have named Tammara Thibeault and Wyatt Sanford to Canada’s boxing team for this summer’s Paris Games.

Sanford and Thibeault both earned Olympic spots by winning gold at the 2023 Pan American Games.

They will be the only boxers on the team Paris after all nine Canadians competing in an Olympic qualification tournament earlier this year in Bangkok failed to lock up another spot.

Thibeault, from Shawinigan, Que., will compete in the women’s 75-kilogram classification for the second straight Games.

She advanced to the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Games in 2021, matching Canada’s best Olympic result in any women’s boxing event.

“I haven’t quite accomplished what I want to yet at the Olympics. Like a lot of things in life, things didn’t always go according to plan or as expected,” Thibeault said in a news release.

“With the pandemic, the preparations leading up to the Olympics in Tokyo were below par, especially because boxing is such a close-contact sport, so training was really impaired. So things didn’t pan out the way I wanted to, but that’s OK because I have another opportunity now.”

Sanford will box in the men’s 63.5 kg competition. He is appearing at his second Olympics after losing in the opening round in Tokyo.

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“It’s me in the ring, but it’s for the whole community. Without my hometown, I wouldn’t be where I’m at and I always fight with them on my side,” said Sanford, who hails from Kennetcook, N.S.

Boxing will take place July 27 to Aug. 10 with preliminary rounds at the North Paris Arena and finals at Roland Garros Stadium.

Canada has won 17 Olympic boxing medals. The most recent was David Defiagbon’s silver medal won in the men’s heavyweight category from Atlanta 1996.

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