photos John Coxon
Among those selected to the women’s team is 18-year-old Helen Freeman, making her Paralympic debut as well as multi-Games athlete Ann Wild, who first competed at the Paralympics 20-years ago at the Seoul Games in 1988, when she was just 15.
The women’s squad for Beijing features a mix of first-time Paralympians, including Sheffield’s Joanne Harper and Southampton’s Pauline McDonald as well as experienced athletes, such as High Wycombe’s Clare Strange and Cardiff’s Caroline Matthews, (for a full squad list see below).
Women: Jill Fox, Helen Freeman, Joanne Harper, Caroline Maclean, Caroline Matthews, Pauline McDonald, Wendy Smith, Clare Strange, Louise Sugden, Helen Turner, Sally Wager, Ann Wild. Reserves: Paula Johnson, Laurie Williams
Thirty-five year-old Matthews, who combines work as a lawyer with training for basketball, said: “Being part of the Great Britain women’s wheelchair basketball team is always an honour – but being selected to represent your country at the Paralympic Games is just amazing. I am so excited to be going to my second Paralympics.
“There is a lot of hard work to be done between now and that opening ceremony and I can’t wait to get stuck in. It’s always tough to balance working full time with the need to train like a full time athlete and this year will be tougher then ever – but I am looking forward to the challenge and the rare opportunity to play against the best ballers in the world.”
Women’s team Head Coach Garry Peel said: “This is a great selection.
“With four athletes in the squad making their Games debuts in Beijing, there is a good mix of experience and fresh talent and if they put the effort in with training and play to their abilities then we should reach our aim of finishing within the top six.
“I’m comfortable and confident that we have a good team now and over the last four years they’ve really come together as a unit, rather than a group of individual players.”
ParalympicsGB Chief Executive Phil Lane, said: “ParalympicsGB is delighted to be able to confirm the selection of the wheelchair basketball teams for Beijing.
“Having just returned from the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, where many of these athletes put in top performances to win silver and bronze for GB – both teams have demonstrated they have the potential to hold their own among top teams.
“Both teams have fairly new, yet exciting, coaching and staff set-ups, ones that we believe can help deliver the best prepared British wheelchair basketball teams ever to the Games and we look forward to seeing them better their achievements in Athens four years ago, in China this summer.”
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games opens on September 6 and closes on September 17. The wheelchair basketball events at the Games take place at the University of Science and Technology Gymnasium before the finals at the National Indoor Stadium.
The competition for the wheelchair basketball gets under way on September 7 with the finals scheduled for September 16. Britain’s men face hosts China in their opening game, followed by Australia, USA, Brazil and Israel. Britain’s women meanwhile come up against Australia in their opening game before faci
At the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, Britain finished second in the medal table with a total of 35 golds, 30 silver and 29 bronze medals. With competitive standards continually rising and the dominant Chinese team taking the home advantage ParalympicsGB recognises that the 2008 Paralympics will be one of its biggest challenges yet.