Eight years ago Daniel Cunningham was introduced to power chair soccer and fell in love.
He is not a multi-sport athlete but possesses a drive that shines through when playing soccer.
“I enjoy the competitive aspect the most,” said Cunningham, a Pen High student. “I’m a very competitive person.”
Cunningham is a member of the Okanagan Thunderchairs and is on the verge of playing the sport at its highest level. In 2008, he captained the Thunderchairs while in Arizona during the Western Regional U.S. National Qualifying tournament.
Recently, Cunningham participated in the eighth B.C. Storm Power Chair Soccer tournament annually hosted by Penticton which added a national division. Players in that division are vying for a spot on Canada’s national team that will go to Paris, France for the World Cup. Cunningham helped the Red Rolls Royces defeat the Blue Beamers. He, along with other players, were given microphones to help them communicate. Gordon Marks, coach of Canada’s national team, said Cunningham and Kelowna’s Ian Wright are the lone Okanagan athletes with a solid chance of representing their country.
“They both have accurate shots, both play their position well,” said Marks. “ (Daniel) He was doing very well at that (as goalie). He’s a pretty aggressive player. He tried out some new equipment so he could be heard better. I think that gave him some more confidence.”
Cunningham is full of excitement for the opportunity that lies ahead.
“It will be fun and much more practice to put in,” said Cunningham, who added four hours of time from his usual hour and a half a week. “The four hours has helped my game play and I have improved a lot.”
This week Cunningham heads to Montreal where some players will earn their spots on the Canadian team during a four-team tournament, part of the Defi Sportif, which attracts athletes from elite to newcomers with all types of disabilities from April 26 to May 1. Team Canada will be chosen by May 15 from the players in that tournament.
“It’s going to be very hard,” said Marks of the selection process. “It’s very hard to pin point exactly which ones will be moving ahead.”
Marks has familiarity with some of the athletes who he remembers as kids and knows the time they have put in. Marks was pleased with how things went in Penticton.
“Good to see they had lots of interest from B.C. players to try out,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting as many.”
When it comes to traveling to Quebec, Marks sees this as an opportunity for the players and views it as a great chance to help the sport grow in Canada, especially with it being the first time Canada is sending a team to the World Cup, which was created in 2007. “It’s quite exciting that way,” he said.