Paralympic dream for Turkish team

Turkey’s women’s wheelchair basketball team can use the IWBF European Wheelchair Basketball Championships as their first step toward Paralympic qualification. 28 Jun 2013
An aerial picture of Rio Olympic Arena

The Rio Olympic Arena where the wheelchair basketball events will be held in 2016

ⒸGetty Images
By Joel Mackenzie | for the IPC

“The thought of competing at a Paralympic Games is a great motivator for our team.”

“The thought of competing at a Paralympic Games is a great motivator for our team.”

That’s straight from the mouth of Turkish women’s wheelchair basketball coach Kamuran Ozdemir ahead of the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball European Championships, which begin on Friday (28 June) in Frankfurt, Germany.

For any para-athlete, the pinnacle of sport is the Paralympic Games, and with Istanbul in the running to host the Paralympic Games in 2020, a successful bid would grant Turkey a historic Paralympic berth in 2020.

The Turkish team, still in its infancy since coming together since 2003, is hoping to achieve that Paralympic dream prior to 2020, though.

A top-four finish in Frankfurt would qualify them for the 2014 World Championships, moving them one step closer to a berth at Rio 2016.

With a no competitions specifically for women in Turkey, many of the players find themselves regularly competing with men for places on teams in the Turkish National Wheelchair Basketball Super League.

Seda Kinali has played guard for powerhouse club Galatasaray SK over the past two seasons and will join 2003 European Championships all-star Aliya Kocasoy and 2011 European Championships rebound leader Naciye Cakir in Frankfurt for their first game on Sunday (30 June) against 2012 Paralympic bronze medallists, the Netherlands.

Ozdemir said while he has been impressed by the development of the team over the past few years, the team still faces many challenges.

“The individual skill of our players is very good,” he said. “Unfortunately, our players can’t often gather. We very rarely have training camps and are weak when playing together as a team.

“To make us competitive at an international level, we need to participate in big tournaments as the Turkish women’s team as often as we can.”

Without a European Championships medal to their name, Ozdemir maintains that a Paralympic berth is the ultimate dream, but for now the focus is on team development.

“It is too early for us to start thinking about a Paralympic Games, for now our expectations are to play well at this European Championships,” he said.

Until then, the 2014 World Championships and Rio 2016 Paralympics are both very realistic goals for the Turkish women’s team, which will look to use tournaments such as the 2013 European Championships as a launch pad into major international competition.