Wheelchair basketball star Patrick Anderson, a senior in Hunter College’s music program, grabbed his fourth medal at the London Paralympics on Sept. 8, leading Canada’s team in a 64-58 victory over Australia.
The championship was payback for the squad’s silver-medal loss to the Aussies in Beijing, after Canada had won gold in both 2000 and 2004. The Canadians – with four veterans in their fourth Paralympics – slid through the tournament 8-0. Anderson led all players with 200 points and averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists a game.
“It feels like the first medal I’ve ever won somehow,” Anderson told The Canadian Press. “We were challenged by a really great team and meeting that challenge was awesome.”
Wanting to transform his love of playing guitar and piano into a career, Anderson, now 33, had retired after the Beijing games and later headed to Hunter College to become a musician.
“There is a big difference between talent and skill, and perhaps I took for granted in sport all those years that it took for me to transform my talent into skill,” he told the BBC World Service. “It was a humbling lesson for me to learn, but it is also exciting. In musical terms I feel young. Maybe not as an athlete, but I have a lot of years to work at it.”
Speaking to Britain’s Channel 4, he added, “The only specific goal I have is to finish my B.A. in music this December. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Last year he married Anna Paddock, a Canadian singer-songwriter and classical pianist who moved to New York City in 2008 to earn a master’s in music in theory and composition at New York University. Besides writing and singing pop tunes (www.annapaddock.com), she composes for film, dance and chorus. She also has a background in sports, having garnered national attention in Canada in volleyball as an undergraduate in British Columbia. The couple lives in Williamsburg.
Team Canada’s website says Anderson is “considered to be the best wheelchair basketball player in the world and one of the greatest to have ever played the game. His talents on and off the court have garnered him international fame as a great role model and fabulous ambassador of the sport. He is well known for his basketball flair and charismatic personality.”
Anderson was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up in Fergus, Ontario. “Like many Canadian kids, he enjoyed playing ice hockey and other sports,” his Team Canada bio says. “In 1989, at the age of 9, he was struck by a drunk driver and lost both of his legs above the knee. He discovered wheelchair basketball in 1990 and his natural athletic ability and tenacity quickly transferred over to the basketball court.”
He made it onto Canada’s Junior Men’s National Team in 1997 and, as most valuable player, led it to back-to-back world championships in 1997 and 2001. Among his many records, he led Canada to a bronze medal at the World Championships in 1998. Anderson later headed overseas, playing professionally in Australia (where he was named MVP in 2003) and in Germany, where his club won three consecutive European championships 2004-2006.
The BBC says he was one of the first to bunny-hop in his chair and effectively jump to claim rebounds. “I might have been a game-changer in the sense of belonging to a generation of gamer-changers,” he says. “I came along in the mid-1990s when guys like my teammate Joey Johnson, Troy Sachs of Australia and Mike Frogley was coaching them at the University of Wisconsin, and they were doing the dynamic things like tilting on one wheel, and I was a teenager and just soaked that in,” he told the BBC.
Anderson wouldn’t say if he will retire again following these games. “Did I say this is going to be it? I don’t know that it is,” he told The Canadian Press. “If it is, it’s a nice way to go out.”