Arguably the best wheelchair basketball World Championships took place in 2018. On other side of the world, nations were battling for 2019 Parapan American Games qualification. After a busy year in the sport, here are six 2018 highlights:
Great Britain stun favourites
With an experienced roster and winning track record, reigning Paralympic champions USA seemed to have all the ingredients for the 2018 World title. But plenty of growth and development have been in the works on the British men’s side over the past years, and they showed that in August’s World Championships.
The British were dominant from the start, never relinquishing a lead to the USA and capturing their first official Worlds gold medal.
More history in Hamburg
The Netherlands’ women’s team upped the pace in their professional programme, and it paid off. Behind a boisterous bright orange crowd in Hamburg, Germany; the Dutch defeated Great Britain for their first gold at a Worlds or Paralympic level.
China on the rise
The women’s bronze medal game was a thriller, with host Germany holding off China on the last second to win by one point. The surprise of the tournament was seeing how far China made in the competition. It was the highest finish at a Worlds for China (seventh at the 2014 edition) and matched the highest from a women’s Asian team (Japan finished fourth in 2002).
Three months later in Jakarta, Indonesia; China proved they are the strongest in their region by winning the 2018 Asian Para Games gold.
Iran make history
The 2017 Asia-Oceania Championship men’s silver medallists Iran saw their highest finish at a Worlds from an Asian men’s team. They battled with Australia in the bronze medal game, falling short of the title.
But they had their golden moment at the Asian Para games in October, when Iran won a thrilling final over Japan 68-66.
World Championships spectacle
Over the summer, Hamburg, Germany, was decorated with “ZA-DONK,” the theme for the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships. The branding, media and marketing in the build-up and during the competition was world-class. The family-friendly “festival” during the competition felt like a mini-Paralympic Games.
It was the first time since 2010 that the men and women’s competitions were held at the same site; Birmingham, Great Britain hosted those World Championships.
The bar has been raised for the next host.
Next year, the pressure will be even higher with Tokyo 2020 Paralympic slots on the line.
In the Americas, nations were battling for tickets to the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, where three men’s and two women’s teams can secure slots for Tokyo. Regional Championships have wrapped up, with the fields set for Lima 2019.