Wheelies’ eyes on prize
While the Rolla Blacks missed out on London qualification, their desire to compete again at the Paralympics has not waned.
From September 22-23, eight teams from around the country will converge on Wellington’s ASB Sports Centre to compete in the National Wheelchair Basketball Champions, hosted by Parafed Wellington and Wheelchair Basketball NZ. This year’s competition will see the largest number of teams compete at the nationals for many years.
“Wheelchair basketball is a very competitive sport, which allows for disabled players to match up with more able,” says Wheelchair Basketball NZ chairman Marcus Thompson. “With the machine of the chair, we challenge ourselves physically and become active beyond our disability.
“We’re aiming to raise the profile of wheelchair basketball as a sport for all-abilities, and hope that competitions such as this continue to showcase disabled sport as an opportunity for both wheelchair and non-wheelchair athletes.”
Athletes involved come from a range of backgrounds and experiences.
Thompson himself overcame the challenge of breaking his back while skiing to continue in his chosen career as a teacher and raising a family of four. Wheelchair basketball is a family affair for the Thompsons, with his able-bodied daughter an integral member of the Horowhenua-Kapiti team.
Both will be in action over the championships.
Other athletes to keep an eye out for include Mark Sullivan, who is the current captain of the Rolla Blacks who has played both here in New Zealand – this year in the Auckland team and previously Canterbury – and also in the Australian National League.
Next season will see the New Zealand team head to Korea for the World Cup zone qualifiers. The competition will be tough in the Asia-Oceania zone, with 28 countries competing, including Australia who won silver medals at London this month.