“Winning a Paralympic gold medal is a hard, hard thing to do, but to be able to defend it is so much harder."
The much-anticipated wheelchair rugby got underway in front of a capacity crowd at the Basketball Arena on Wednesday (5 September).
Recognised as the world’s best player, Riley Batt produced a memorable performance in front of around 12,000 spectators.
He scored 37 times to help Australia to a 64-52 victory against Beijing bronze medallists, Canada.
Batt, who was part of the Australian team that won silver four years ago, admits that the Canadian team made the win hard work.
“It was a tough game and we are really pleased with our performance,” he said.
“It’s a great way to start the tournament, but we’ve got four more games to go.
“The team helped me out so much, that they just made my work look really easy.”
Canadian coach Kevin Orr was disappointed with the result and recognises work needs to be done ahead of the remaining pool matches.
“It wasn’t the outcome that we were looking for, it wasn’t the way we had scripted it out, but give credit to Australia as they played a really good game,” he said.
“They played really well as a team. It wasn’t just ‘The Riley Batt Show’, the whole team supported him.”
The USA, who won the gold medal in Beijing, secured their first win of the Games in a 56-44 victory against Great Britain.
The host nation started the stronger side, and opened up a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter. However, a strong second quarter by the USA put them in a promising position.
The Americans led 28-23 at half-time and never looked back, frustrating Great Britain in the second half.
Chuck Aoki scored 14 points for the USA, with Captain Will Groulx also adding nine.
“Winning a Paralympic gold medal is a hard, hard thing to do, but to be able to defend it is so much harder,” Groulx said.
“We can’t take anything for granted.
“Every team is going to come out and give it their all to beat us. We need to weather that early storm and play rugby the way that we normally play.
“If we do that like we did against Great Britain, then I think we’re going to be absolutely fine.”
Aaron Phipps and David Anthony were the standout scorers for Great Britain securing 16 and 11 points respectively. Phipps was impressed with his side’s performance despite the result.
“I was really pleased with how we started, but I think they just did us with experience.
“The pressure was certainly on them and unfortunately for us, they came through in the end,” he said.
In the other matches on the first day of action, Sweden defeated Belgium 52-42 and Japan beat France 65-56.