Today, British Wheelchair Basketball announced that both of its GB Teams have landed safely in Tokyo and are focused to begin their respective competition on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th August.
The NGB confirmed that GB’s Head of Coaching and Tactical Development, Haj Bhania OBE, will remain in the UK to oversee the strategic tactical direction of both ParalympicsGB squads (alongside GB Assistant Coach Steve Caine). COVID-19 regulations have prevented Haj Bhania accompanying the Men’s Team to Tokyo due to a positive COVID-19 test in the lead up to the Games.
Both ParalympicsGB Teams have planned for and tested extensive COVID-19 continuity plans during preparation camps, as well as for competition in Tokyo. A positive COVID-19 case is a scenario which has been considered and carefully planned for, with the emphasis on ensuring a continuity of performance support for the Teams in Tokyo and the UK.
The Teams will benefit from a strong and well-equipped support team in place to lead on the ground in Tokyo, consisting of Gaz Choudhry transitioning to the role of the men’s team player/coach, and the women’s team line up remaining unchanged with Simon Fisher as coach of the women’s team. Both teams will continue to be backed by Team Managers and key Sport Science/Sports Medicine practitioners.
The UK based coaching team, consisting of Haj Bhania OBE and Steve Caine, will utilise updated performance analysis software and work with specialist elite performance analysts both in the UK and Tokyo, to inform the ParalympicsGB Teams’ tactical competition strategy in Tokyo. Investment in technology and working adaptations during the pandemic will further support the enhancement of the Teams’ strategic planning; with video conference meetings, collaborative software and shared performance analysis platforms ensuring that the ParalympicsGB Teams’ progress is not impacted by geographical constraints.
As a GB athlete, Gaz has been a member of the men’s senior squad for over 11 years, winning four European golds and a World Championship title during his career. His accomplished professional playing career has seen Gaz play for top-flight European Clubs, including completing the 2020/21 season with Copa Del Rey winning team BSR Amiab Albacete, as well as being named as MVP twice during the tournament.
As part of the GB Performance Programme, Gaz has competed and trained under Haj Bhania’s considered leadership since 2013 and will undoubtedly also bring his own experience and direction to the Team’s Tokyo performance.
A hugely respected athlete, Gaz was elected into the British Paralympic Association’s Athlete Commission in December 2020, and is a vocal advocate of Paralympic sport. Gaz will be ably supported by two highly experienced co-captains Ian Sagar and Lee Manning, coming together to lead the men’s team throughout the competition.
Commenting on today’s news, British Wheelchair Basketball’s CEO Lisa Pearce said:
“Our first-priority is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our staff team and athletes, as well as the wider Paralympic Community. I am once again immensely proud of our staff team and athletes, who have seamlessly adopted our COVID-19 continuity plan and transitioned into the new team format.
“I can confirm that Haj is well, but as expected is enormously disappointed to not be supporting the Team from courtside in Tokyo.
“To see our Team’s arrive in Tokyo is simply a huge achievement. Preparing for this Paralympic Games has been unlike any other, and we have had to navigate many new and challenging situations under the complex backdrop of COVID-19. We continue to be in awe of the professionalism and empathy with which our athletes and staff team support each other, both courtside and strategically from the UK.”
Gaz Choudhry also added to Lisa’s sentiment:
“It is an honour to be selected to represent your nation, and there is no bigger stage than the Paralympic Games. It is a privilege to have been mentored by a coach of Haj Bhania’s considerable experience and reputation, and to be trusted with the player coach role for the GB Men’s Team. Our preparation programme included the formation of our coaching group and the collaborative process has enabled and prepared me to assume this role.
“This Games has often seemed like a distant dream to all of the athletes who have trained so hard. It has required a huge amount of commitment and sacrifice from each and every player, but also our families and our performance support teams. However, I believe these challenges have only served to fuel our fire and drive our ambition to get on court in Tokyo. I look forward to continuing to be guided and mentored by Haj and the Performance Team as we head to Tokyo and with the support of the athletes and world class support staff here give our best possible performance”
ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe commented:
“My heart goes out to Haj who I know was deeply committed and keen to continue his fantastic work with the team out in Tokyo. However, thorough and considered planning by British Wheelchair Basketball means that Haj remains a terrific asset to the team, while Gaz Choudhry – an athlete we all respect and admire – will I know adapt seamlessly to his role as player coach.”