Life on the 3x3 basketball women's series can be a grind — just look at Kacie Bosch.
Since cutting her face open as Canada earned silver at June's World Cup in Belgium, Bosch and the rest of the Canadian squad has travelled from Edmonton to Romania to Quebec to France and back home to Montreal, winning plenty of basketball games along the way.
Now, the team — which typically features sisters Katherine and Michelle Plouffe, along with Bosch and Paige Crozon — is back in Romania for the Women's Series Final as the top seed. The event begins on Saturday.
A victory in Constanta would cap off a near-flawless season, in which the foursome went unbeaten en route to winning all three events they played together. Only Crozon played all five events, where Canada still placed third and fourth, respectively, without its full squad.
Michelle Plouffe said Bosch's bloodied face encapsulates the sport.
"Because it's about toughness and grit and passion and sometimes you bleed, sometimes injuries happen," Plouffe said after the World Cup. "But just the character of the players on this tour and in this sport is just toughness. And Kacie Bosch is an incredible example of that."
The sport debuted as an Olympic sport at Tokyo 2020, but Canada's women were denied a shot at qualifying due to a rules quirk limiting most countries to one gender. The Canadian men failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament.
Plouffe said that denial has been a motivating factor.
"At some point you have to just kind of move on with whatever you were dealt and just kind of build towards the future," she said. "So it wasn't so much at the forefront of our mind, but it potentially was like, OK, now we have an actual chance to do something that we kind of always believed we could do."
Starting from their second-place finish at last year's final, the Canadian women have made it abundantly clear they intend not only to participate at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but to reach the podium.
Canada Basketball CEO Michael Bartlett agrees.
"We've got lightning in a bottle with this sport and with the talent pipeline we have in our country that we can expedite our high-performance podium credential really quickly," he said.
WATCH | Canada falls to France in World Cup final:
Growing the sport
Edmonton's Plouffe sisters entered the sport with pedigree, with Michelle having played at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in 5-on-5 and Katherine owning years of experience in the traditional vertical as well. Crozon, of Humboldt, Sask., played 52 games over six years with the national team.
Bartlett said the federation is working to get more athletes into 3x3 from an early age. He said Canada Basketball is working with Canadian universities to make it a varsity sport.
"For it to be a sustained, high-performance objective, it needs to be a community objective as well," he said.
Canada opens play against Romania on Saturday at 11:35 a.m. ET before facing World Cup champion France an hour later. It wraps group play on Sunday at 9:05 a.m. ET against Lithuania.
The top three teams in each pool reach the single-elimination knockout stage, with the winners advancing directly to the semifinals. The gold-medal game begins on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. ET.