Ontario wheelchair basketball player Eric Voss has grown up with the Canada Winter Games. Once an introverted boy with spina bifida, Voss’s star began to emerge as a 15-year-old at the 2011 Games in Halifax. After competing in Grand Prairie in 2015, Voss is now entrenched as a leader on the Ontario Under-24 wheelchair basketball team in these, his third Canada Games.
Voss, 22, of St. Mary’s, Ont. 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 says. “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 OK with that.”
But growing up with a visible disability can be difficult on a young boy or girl.
“I had a hard time, I was different from everyone in high school and sport gave me a different outlook on life,” says Voss. “Sometimes people kind of looked down on me, when they see that I’m representing my province they really change their thinking about what being disabled means. It brings a lot of awareness.”
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,” says Ludwig. “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.”
Wheelchair basketball is a completely inclusive event at Canada Games. There are males, females and players with all level of ability. Players are rated from 1-5 points and coaches must field a team of players with no more than 15 points total.
Voss, who had 24 points in his first two games of this tournament, trains full time with the national wheelchair basketball team in Toronto and hopes his Games experience will help him earn a full-time spot on the Canadian roster in the next couple of years. He’s relishing his role as a go-to guy on the floor in Red Deer.
“I try to lead by example,” he says. “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 doesn’t 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.”