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paralympic rugby

Meet Zak Madell: Okotoks Athlete Wins MVP at International Rugby Tournament

Bouncing back from the devastating loss of his fingers and legs, Madell earned the coveted MVP title at the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup

Zak Madell embodies the spirit of our province. 

The Okotoks athlete possesses an indomitable will that can’t be broken, no matter what challenges he faces. 

Through hard work and determination, Madell was recently named MVP at the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup in France and helped Team Canada take home silver.

A Spirited History

When Madell was 10, he lost his fingers and legs to a septic staph infection. 

After recovering, Madell wasted no time getting involved in sports. He started with sledge hockey, the Paralympic sport version of ice hockey for athletes with a physical impairment in the lower part of their bodies.

Zak Madell, a Team Canada athlete from Okotoks | World Wheelchair Rugby

Instead of skates, players use double-blade sledges and two sticks, with spiked ends for pushing and a blade end for shooting. 

But Madell could not hold the sticks well enough to play at a high level. 

So he moved on to wheelchair rugby, which was a perfect match for Madell’s competitiveness and speed.

Madell’s love for wheelchair sports and obvious talent led him to be recruited by the Canadian National Team. 

At 17, Madell debuted nationally at the 2011 Americas Zone qualification tournament. His Paralympic debut followed soon after.

With just over a year of wheelchair rugby experience, Madell earned himself a spot on the team for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The coaching staff originally planned to give Madell limited playing time. That plan was scrapped when Madell consistently outperformed their expectations.

The pressure of competing on the world stage didn’t bother him one bit. Madell’s performance led Canada to victory in the semi-finals against the top-ranked American team. Ever since, Madell has collected a long list of awards, including multiple MVP titles.

But Madell received his most impressive honour at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto. After leading Team Canada to its first gold medal in 13 years, he was named the team’s flagbearer of the closing ceremony.

The Present 

This month, Madell added another MVP title to the list at the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup and helped his team earn a Silver at the competition.

Team Canada started the round-robin tournament with a 49-48 win over Australia. In the second and third rounds, the team overcame Denmark and Great Britain with scores of 50-46 and 48-47, respectively. In their match before the finals, Team Canada secured a 51-50 win over the host France.

Team Canada headed into the gold medal game, and the only obstacle between them was Team Australia. After fighting tirelessly, the Aussies bested Team Canada and finished the match with a 53-48 score. Team Canada may have lost the Gold, but Madell earned a personal victory – the title of MVP!

The MVP title is a testament to Madell’s hard work and talent. But he isn’t just a skilled rugby player. He has brains to go with his brawn.

Madell has a diploma in Architectural Technology from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Most recently, Madell received his Talk Master Certification to improve his lecturing and speaking skills. 

Madell has also worked as a UBER driver for the last six years.

Madell and Team Canada are now preparing for the upcoming Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, next month. 

If Team Canada can secure gold at the Games, this will ensure their entry into the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Zak Madell at the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup in France | Megumi Masuda | World Wheelchair Rugby

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