Great Britain's bid for women’s wheelchair basketball glory may have ended in disappointment in Tokyo this morning but UK Sport CEO Sally Munday hailed the impact of their performance at the Paralympic Games.
Helen Freeman and Amy Conroy, with 10 and nine points respectively, top-scored for Britain, but it wasn't enough as China progressed to a semi-final showdown with the United States.
On the morning of the quarter finals of the women’s wheelchair basketball competition in Tokyo; The National Lottery and UK Sport staged an event at Channel 4 HQ in Leeds, to showcase the benefits of the sport with the help of the Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair Basketball Club, where ParalympicsGB athletes Sophie Carrigill and Harry Brown started their careers.
Players showed off their skills to introduce more people to the sport, while also inviting Channel4 presenter’s Steph McGovern and Arthur Williams to have a go in order to showcase just how easy and inclusive wheelchair basketball is to play with friends.
The Inspire a Generation programme – an initiative by British Wheelchair Basketball to get more people involved in the sport across the UK – is supported by £1.5m of funding from Sport England and The National Lottery. The event today demonstrated the power of sport and how GB performances are inspiring communities across the UK in a variety of ways through physical activity, creating inclusive communities and breaking down barriers.
“One of the brilliant things about Paralympic sport is that the athletes are so incredible they make it look so easy,” said Munday.
“What British Wheelchair Basketball has done with this Inspire a Generation programme is just genius because it is connecting people seeing the sport on TV and being able to find a place locally to pick up a ball and have a go.
“I’m not a wheelchair user but I’ve come here today and I’ve been given a chair to use, shown how to use it, given the basics of wheeling, manoeuvring, and bouncing the ball,” she added.
“And this is the great thing, you’ve got non-disabled people playing along with those with disabilities. It’s just good sport and enjoyable, great opportunities and a great job by British Wheelchair Basketball to get this initiative up and running.
“One of the great things about wheelchair basketball is exactly how inclusive it is. It’s making it easy for non-disabled and disabled people to play alongside each other in an enjoyable game.”
The event was also an opportunity to educate and thank the public on the critical role of National Lottery players in ParalympicsGB’s success and in supporting grassroots sport.
Sally Munday highlighted: “The National Lottery players are incredibly important for British sport from the grassroots to the elite. Every single person that plays The National Lottery can take a part in the success that we are seeing out in Tokyo; all the athletes out there are supported by National Lottery players. And then you translate that down to the grassroots activity that we are seeing here in Leeds today.”
“All the people out there that play The National Lottery are playing their part in fuelling British sport and all of us that see that are hugely appreciative.”
The event in Leeds was used to engage the nation and help ensure the long-term health of Olympic and Paralympic sport is brought to the attention of the masses.
Jo Richards, British Wheelchair Basketball Participation Director, said: “It’s really important for us in any Paralympic year but especially this year after the pandemic.”
“Disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the lack of activity and participation opportunities.”
“So, we really have tried to maximise what is happening with the Paralympics this year. Make sure that everybody is aware that they can go and sign up to their local Inspire a Generation wheelchair basketball session, where they can have a go – you don’t have to have equipment or anything like that. You can just turn up and play in a really fun and welcoming environment.”
From Aberdeen to Abergavenny, Portrush to Portsmouth, ParalympicsGB athletes are uniting and inspiring people from across the UK like never before.
Anna Jackson, retired ParalympicsGB wheelchair basketball player and coach said: “I think it’s really important we’ve got so much more coverage of it now; people can see the sport in action and see the men and the women play.
“They can see the different players, different disabilities and different backgrounds and maybe think, ‘Ah that’s like me, I could do that’.
“There’s some great opportunities now with our Inspire a Generation programme to get new people playing the sport. With or without disabilities, let’s get people in and playing.”
National Lottery players’ support to ParalympicsGB athletes and grassroots Wheelchair Basketball clubs and initiatives is vital. If you’ve been inspired by ParalympicsGB athletes, visit www.parasport.org.uk to discover an inclusive community sport opportunity near you or to find your nearest Inspire a Generation Wheelchair Basketball session visit www.inspireageneration.com