As her national anthem rose above the array of festivities on July 1, all Langley basketball player Isabelle Forsyth could think about was memories of Chile and the pride she felt hearing O Canada.
“Representing Canada was so cool,” Forsyth said. “I never really experienced anything like this on an international level, so when the anthem started playing… it was amazing.”
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) welcomed teams from North and South America for the 2019 Championship in Aysen, Chile, June 16-22.
The sixteen-year-old Brookswood resident was one of twelve members who made up the U16 Canadian Women’s team and returned home days before July 1 with a silver medal.
“It was a really cool experience to see the culture and the weather. It was interesting because it was just like Vancouver’s weather in the winter – rain and a little snow,” Forsyth said.
Tryouts were held in December which selected Forsyth and two other players from Surrey who all play together for the Semiahmoo Secondary Totems. The team won a triple-A senior girls provincial championship last March.
It was then Forsyth’s basketball future became uncertain when she suffered a foot fracture during those championships.
“I suffered a stress fracture in my foot which took eight weeks to heal,” Forsyth explained.
She was cleared to play in May and headed to Humber College in Toronto from June 6-11 to meet the rest of her team. Besides the trio from BC, there was one player from Alberta, three from Quebec, and four from Ontario.
The team’s leader, Cheryl Jean-Paul, is also a Langley resident and currently serves as Trinity Western University women’s coach. This was Jean-Paul’s first experience coaching and travelling for an international tournament.
“The team did a great job of being grateful and trying different foods. The word I like to use is resilience because it’s easy to be uncomfortable when you’re in a different place,” Jean-Paul said.
FIBA brings together 213 National Basketball Federations across the globe, hosting both Women’s and Men’s world tournaments and overseeing the Olympic Basketball Championships. The FIBA Americas Championship in one of five leagues and is held bi-annually.
The U16 team beat Equador, Brazil, and Puerto Rico, finishing first in their pool and going on to beat El Salvador in the semi-finals.
“I enjoyed the South American style of play,” Forsyth explained. “They’re a lot smaller than we are so it’s interesting to see how they use that to their advantage and play fast.”
Jean-Paul said it was the qualifying game game against the home country, Chile, that stood out for her and the team.
“It’s a game you hope athletes get to experience. Fans were great. It’s like what you see if you watch any European or South American game. People had steel drums and were singing songs and whistling when players went to take a shot.”
Team Canada ultimately lost the final game against the United States, but walked away with an international experience and a taste of what to expect in the year ahead.
“Ultimately, this is a pathway to senior women’s national basketball which you hope to see the girls be a part of in the next three or five years,” Jean-Paul said.
Team Canada undergoes new tryouts to strengthen the roster and even add new players who may not have made the cut in the previous year. The FIBA world championships will be held in Romania next summer – an event Forsyth is already preparing for.
“I’m pretty confident about making the team,” said Forsyth. “I know what I need to work on to be better at the international level.”
Forsyth added that she was unsure about playing basketball as a career, but would like to play at the university level. She played the position of shooting guard at the FIBA Americas Championship.
Her stats for the tournament were 17.5 min per game, 7 points, and 3 rebounds.
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