Held from the 28th August to the 6th September at the University of Worcester Arena, the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships forms part of UK Sport’s National Lottery funded #EveryRoadtoRio programme, which targets events that will support the nation’s athletes in their preparation and qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The continent’s sole wheelchair basketball qualifying event for next year’s Games, the Championships has seen 19 teams from across 12 nations battle it out at the University of Worcester Arena: the top five men’s teams and top four women’s teams earning their 2016 Paralympic place.
The GB Women’s Team earned both a place in Brazil and the European Championship semi finals with 4/6 wins in the group stage of the event: overcoming Turkey (76-23), France (79-37), Italy (69-10), and Spain (54-50) – losses to Germany (39-53) and the Netherlands (52-64).
Finishing third in the pool, Great Britain therefore set up a semi final clash against the second placed team: Germany. A nailbiting battle ensued, but it was the Germany Women’s Team – the 2013 silver medallists – who just edged out a single point victory by 56-55; the Netherlands defeating France by 52-64 in the earlier semi final.
A tense start to the bronze medal game saw the opening shots not fall for either teams; it was, however, Great Britain who were first on the scoreboard as Jordanna Bartlett broke through the pressure to sink a fantastic shot (2-0). France hit back to the level the game on 2-2, but – settling into the match – it was the GB Women who pushed to a 12-2 lead at the end of the opening 10 minutes.
With the momentum on their side, the defending bronze medallists continued to drive forwards in the second quarter: the GB Women playing their way to a 21 point lead within the first five minutes (27-6). Indeed, France continued to battle hard, but a stunning quarter performance saw Great Britain outshoot their opponents by 27-11 to enter half time with a 39-13 advantage.
Rallying together once more in the third quarter, the GB Women continued to dominate play at both ends of the court as they soared ahead by 59-21 with just 10 minutes left on the clock.
The French Women’s Team continued to put up a gritty performance in the final quarter, but it was Great Britain who closed out a 69-39 victory and with it the nation’s fifth consecutive Women’s European Bronze Medal.
Head Coach Miles Thompson said: “Our goal was to get to the final, so it’s disappointing to come in third. But this team, the athletes, are so strong in spirit and the way they approach all the hard work that I couldn’t be prouder and I couldn’t be more optimistic about Rio.
“We know we’re here to stay; we know we can play with anybody in the world – we know we can beat anybody in the world. Now we’ve just got to go do it.”
To deliver the Championships, British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB) has also teamed up with key partner the University of Worcester with invaluable support from the Worcestershire County Council, Worcester City Council and Worcestershire Local Enterprise.