Australian wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball teams will take on Japan during the first week of Tokyo Paralympic Games
The Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team ‘Gliders’ and wheelchair rugby team ‘Steelers’ and will take on Japan during the first week of the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Wednesday 25 and Friday 27 August.
The Steelers are currently ranked no.1 in the world and won gold medals two consecutive games at London 2012 and Rio 2016. They are hoping to create Australian Paralympic history with a third consecutive gold. After losing to Japan by one point in the final at the 2018 World Championships in Australia, the team bounced back a year later and defeated Japan by one point at another tournament in Japan.
The Steelers have had a disrupted start to the Paralympics due to the pandemic. The training camp in Tokyo will be the first time in over 17 months that they have been able to play together.
— VoiceOfRealAustralia (@ACMVora) February 8, 2021
With his excellent power and speed, Ryley Batt demonstrates his strong offence and defence during matches. He made his Paralympics debut in Athens 2004. At Rio, for the Paralympic final, he scored 27 points, nearly half of the total team score. Having represented Australia more than 300 games, the veteran star will be one to watch.
Wheelchair Rugby is a mixed team sport for male and female quadriplegic athletes. Shae Graham is the first female player for the Steelers, after taking up the nearly ten years after a car accident. When she is not competing, Shae works as a librarian. Shae is grateful to be welcomed into the Steelers, saying “They’re the best in the world, so I wanted to be the best alongside them. They welcomed me with open arms, they’ve taken me under their wings and they’re helping me grow as a player.” The Japanese national team also has a female player, Kae Kurahashi.
The Gliders are back at the Paralympics for the first time in nine years since London 2012, where the team got silver. The team had brought back medals four consecutive games since Sydney 2000. Sarah Vinci and Amber Merritt are the only two members from the past games out of the squad of 12. Hannah Dodd previously competed in Para-equestrian events before joining the Gliders.
At the 2019 Asia Oceania Championships, the Gliders came second followed by Japan. The Gliders won all three matches vs Japan, qualifying them for the Tokyo games.
At the announcement of the Gliders team selection in July, Centre Georgia Munro-Cook says, “We haven’t played an international game since late 2019 and while we’ve had a few camps over the past year, it’s been up and down with Covid and having to quarantine. It has been tricky, but we’ve all been working really hard individually and it’s paying off right now.”
The Gliders spent time engaging with members of the Japanese public before the pandemic. The team had a training camp in Urayasu City, Chiba ahead of an international tournament in Tokyo 2019. During the camp, the players gave a chance to Japanese students to ride on wheelchairs and opened their friendly match vs Japan to the public.