The Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association extends its condolences on the loss of wheelchair basketball coach Jerry Tonello, who passed away yesterday from brain cancer at the age of 59. Tonello was a long-time coach, mentor and player who was passionate both about the game and about getting the most out of his athletes.
“Jerry Tonello made a huge contribution to the Canadian sport system and will be missed,” said CWSA CEO Cathy Cadieux. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and our colleagues at Wheelchair Basketball Canada at this time.”
Tonello played a crucial role in the Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team’s decades of success. He led the team to gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, was associate head coach at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics where the team won silver, and was assistant coach of the gold medal-winning team at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games as well as the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, where the team placed fifth.
Tonello had a profound respect for wheelchair basketball and its athletes and understood that if he was to coach successfully, he first had to learn how to play. In 1992, he became the first able-bodied player to compete at a national wheelchair basketball championships, and he was one of the all-time highest scores at the Spitfire Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
Tonello is survived by his wife Ann-Louise and his two sons, Matthew and Zachary.