Dramatic scenes unfolded in Tokyo’s Ariake Wheelchair Basketball Arena as ParalympicsGB Women delivered a dramatic win against Australia to secure their place in the Quarter-Finals. The GB Women will now face China at 10:15 (BST) on Tuesday 31 August to battle for a place in the semi-finals.
The team fought hard to find its form during the opening games of the tournament, with tough losses against hosts Japan, Canada and Germany. Their final pool game against Australia was to be a defining moment of their Paralympic Campaign, determining their qualification into the quarter finals.
Hitting the court after a 20-month absence from international competition, the GB Women had trained for the postponed 2020 Paralympics under the shadow of the UK’s COVID-19 restrictions, and during three national lockdowns. The unique circumstances of their preparation, limited by significant periods of no equipment sharing, no close contact training, and no access to indoor basketball court environments, shines a light on the resilience of the team whose individual determination to be in Tokyo saw garages converted into gyms, and wheelchair basketball training taking place on outdoor courts and carparks.
As a GB Team they finally came together in the spring of 2021, to commence restricted environment training camps where the squad could begin their Paralympic Games preparation. In contrast to previous major tournament’s strict travel restrictions and quarantine rules removed the opportunity for the Team to experience international pre-games training and competition environments ahead of taking to court in Tokyo.
During the opening pool games it was clear that the squad needed the time to find its form, but tough loses against Japan, Canada and Germany were hard fought.
Following the 75-38 win against Australia, ParalympicGB’s Co-Captain Maddie Thompson commented:
“We really did ourselves proud – yesterday I said there was an ambition to find the GB Way and we really found it today. We really believed in ourselves today and I think it is really powerful when you play with a smile. The biggest thing going into today was to have fun – remember why we play wheelchair basketball.
“I huddled everyone up and said this is for the sacrifices we make – we deserve to be here. We’ve just started the mountain climb. We’ve got through the pools and we are now starting the climb to get into a medal position. That is where we are aiming.”
Jayne Ellis, ParalympicsGB Team Leader and BWB’s Performance Director added:
“I am so very very proud of this team, once again they have regrouped, refocused and come out onto court today determined to secure their quarter-final position. After such a long period away from competition, this is a huge stage for them to make their return.
“As World and European silver medallists they have been frustrated with the limitations of the training preparations (although understandable) – however, they have focused on basics and from today’s on-point shooting and the apparent depth in the squad it is clearly evident that this time was well spent.”