British Wheelchair Basketball this week confirmed its decision not to enter a GB team into the IWBF 2021 U22 European Championships.
Citing the reasoning behind the difficult decision, the Sport acknowledged that COVID-19 continued to present too great of a risk to the well-being of the squad, and wider support team. Added to this the uncertainty regarding international travel restrictions and quarantines, plus limited opportunity to adequately prepare a team for competition (given the significant training break during the pandemic) – the NGB felt it had no choice but to take the difficult decision not to enter a GB team into the Championship.
The implications of the Sports decision are far reaching, as the 2021 U22 Europeans is also the qualifying tournament for the 2022 IWBF U23 World Championships. This will now mean that the GB national junior squad will no longer have the opportunity to defend its IWBF U23 2017 World Championship Title at the 2022 World Championships.
In what will understandably be a disheartening decision for the athletes and staff impacted, BWB’s Performance Director Jayne Ellis explained:
“We simply felt that there was no other decision that could be made, given the timing of the Championships. Throughout the pandemic we have operated with an athlete first approach to the delivery of the World-Class Programme by ensuring health and well-being are prioritised above training and competition.
“This situation is no different; had the Championships been held later in the year, when the UK and Europe was in a better place with the management of the COVID-19 pandemic we could have had the opportunity to make a different decision, but with just seven weeks’ notice after a year of limited training opportunities for our players, alongside the risks still posed by COVID-19, we have been left with no choice but to make this decision.
“As a Performance Director one of my priorities is to ensure the GB squads have the opportunity to compete at the highest international level, but this isn’t at the cost of athlete or staff health and the priority right now has to be the wellbeing of our all our players and staff. We are focused on the future, post pandemic, when our teams will be once again, ready to dominate on the world stage of wheelchair basketball.”