Denmark not deterred by most recent losses

Despite not qualifying for Rio 2016, the Danish wheelchair rugby team has renewed hope ahead of the European Championships. 14 Apr 2017
Two wheelchair rugby players fight for the ball on the field of play

Leon Jorgensen will play at the 2014 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Odense, Denmark

ⒸLars Moller
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

“I really hope to finish in the top two, but at the moment we have a lot of new guys and girls on the team, so whether we can manage to place top two at Europeans is hard to say at the moment.”

Denmark will use the heartbreak of its most recent major tournament losses as inspiration at the 2017 IWRF European Division A Championship, set to take place in Koblenz, Germany, from 24 June-1 July.

The Danes narrowly missed qualification for Rio 2016 for the first time in wheelchair rugby on two separate occasions during the past two seasons.

Arch rivals Sweden beat them by one goal in the semi-finals of the 2015 Europeans, whilst France and the USA claimed the final two tickets to the Paralympics ahead of Denmark in a qualifying tournament in Paris in May 2016.

Danish star Leon Jorgensen said the side is set to have several new faces this time around, whilst US veteran Jason Regier has joined as head coach.

Thor Johansson, Jon Johanneson, Mike Borgstrom, Kurt Busk and Martin Kaas Hansen will be missing through retirement or a temporary break from the sport, whilst Sofie Skoubo will be a potential debutant at the Europeans.

“Who exactly will be competing at the Europeans is not written in stone, but Sofie (Skoubo), who joined the team last year, most likely will and she is proving to be a good asset to the team counting as zero points,” Jorgensen said.

“The preparation for the Europeans is going well so far, we have had several camps this year and we had a joint camp with Great Britain in March.

“Furthermore, we have a camp planned with France and also the Metro Cup in Poland as a preparation tournament.

“Having Jason as our coach is still very new, but I feel like it will add some new things to the team.

“Jason has a lot of experience playing at the top level and he certainly has some good ideas.

“I really hope to finish in the top two, but at the moment we have a lot of new guys and girls on the team, so whether we can manage to place top two at Europeans is hard to say at the moment.”

Jorgensen said it would be a massive achievement if Denmark were to go all the way to win its first European title and claim the European No.1 ranking with it.

However, missing Rio 2016 still stings for many of the players.

“It hurt a lot and it is still disappointing to think about,” Jorgensen said.

“The goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and I think with the squad we have at the moment that should be obtainable.”

Jorgensen considers this year’s European Championship as a very open tournament.

“I think the hardest teams to beat right now are GB and France because we have lost to these teams numerous times, but also the remaining competition of the Europeans is strong,” he said.

“If they’ve all got their full squads, anyone can beat anyone.”

Denmark were drawn in Pool B to face Great Britain, Poland and Ireland, whilst Sweden, France, Finland and Germany make up Pool A.

The tournament will take place at the CONLOG Arena in Koblenz, Germany, from 24 June-1 July and is a direct qualifier for the 2018 IWRF World Championship in Sydney, Australia, with the top four teams securing spots at Worlds.

Teams finishing outside the top four will still have a chance to qualify through the World Championship qualification tournament, held in early 2018.

More information can be found on the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation´s website.