When Zak Madell was 10, he lost his fingers and legs to a septic staph infection. After his recovery, Madell first got involved in sledge hockey but he was unable to hold the stick well enough to play at a high level. Next, he was introduced to wheelchair basketball, which appealed to his competitive nature and his love of speed. Finally, he was recruited to wheelchair rugby in 2011 and has experienced a meteoric rise in the sport ever since.

He earned a spot on the team for the London 2012 Paralympic Games despite having played for just over a year. The coaching staff originally intended to give Madell only limited playing time, but he consistently performed above expectations and handled the pressure of the Paralympics with a smile on his face. His performance was the wild card that lifted Canada to victory in its semifinal upset of the No. 1-ranked American team.

In just four short years, "The Kid" has established himself as one of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world. He was named MVP of the 2014 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Odense, Denmark, the 2014 Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament and the 2015 World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge. His biggest honor came when he was named Team Canada's flag-bearer of the Closing Ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, after leading the team to its first gold medal in 13 years.

After graduating from Holy Trinity Academy in Okotoks, Alta., Madell moved to Toronto to train and attend Centennial College. Now, he is living in Victoria where he trains with teammates Miranda Biletski and Travis Murao.

Career highlights

  • Won gold at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

  • Named Team Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony at the Parapan Am Games.

  • Won silver at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.