After the Canadian sitting volleyball team suffered a tough defeat at the hands of the hometown Brazilians on Friday, the 5,000-strong crowd started singing a familiar song.
However, it wasn’t a nationalistic chant or anthem.
Even sung in Portuguese, it’s still easy to pick out the happy birthday tune.
The crowd belted out the salutations in recognition of a Canadian sitting volleyball player who had just turned 20 years old.
Jaffray’s Shacarra Orr.
“I was overwhelmed,” Orr said. “It was amazing.”
It was a special day for Orr, not just because of her birthday, but also because —despite the team’s loss — it was the first time a Canadian sitting volleyball team had played in the Paralympics.
Before the squad hit the court, they made sure to celebrate with Orr.
“I woke up to Jen Oates jumping on my head singing to me, then when I went into the cafeteria, everyone was singing,” Orr said. “They had a balloon, they had cake, they wrote me a card.
“Each individual girl did something special for me. Whether it was gift or an extra hug, they all know me so well and each one of the gifts they gave me really reflected our relationship.”
Despite her youth, Orr is a big part of the sitting volleyball squad, having trained with them in Edmonton all summer to prepare for the games. The team qualified for Rio last year when they finished in third place at the Para-Pan Am Games.
“It’s an interesting chemistry on our team,” said co-captain Jolan Wong, whose been on the team since it started eight years ago. “Even though we have so many different ages, we all unite as one and we all have a common goal in mind when it comes to volleyball.”
Playing as a setter, Orr joined the team after rehabilitating from a car accident that left her with serious injuries.
Even though the incident left her with limited mobility in her right arm, she has trained herself to work with her left arm on the volleyball court.
The team has been in tough so far, with a straight set loss to the Brazilians, while dropping a match 3-1 to the Netherlands on Sunday. The Canadians will go up against the Ukranians on Tuesday.
With files from the Canadian Paralympic Committee