The Danish wheelchair rugby team underwent a makeover after missing out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as they turn their focus toward the 2018 World Championships, which is exactly six months from now on 5 August in Sydney, Australia.
For Sofie Skoubo, she needed to prove she deserved a spot on that new-look team, where she would be the only female on the squad.
“When I was contacted regarding playing for the national team, I was afraid whether I was good enough to play at that level as I had only been playing for a short amount of time,” she said.
But the countless hours spent watching matches paid off. She sharpened her tactical knowledge of the game, while increasing her training workload.
She made the national team after Denmark missed their shot at Rio 2016 and looked to rebuild.
“I didn’t imagine how far I would go by joining the national team,” Skoubo said.
Well, she has made it far enough to attend the GIO 2018 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) Wheelchair Rugby World Championships; Denmark qualified for the 2018 Worlds by reaching the semifinals of last year’s IWRF European Divison A Championship. By doing so, they will be join Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Japan, Sweden, and the USA in August. A qualification tournament in April will decide the last four teams heading to Sydney.
“As we are the underdogs at [the] Worlds, I believe we have an element of surprise,” Skoubo said. “I am really looking forward to meeting the best teams in the world as we can learn and improve a lot from them.”
Sport has always been a big part of Skoubo’s family. Her brother became a professional football player, while she was involved in wheelchair sports from a young age.
Former Danish wheelchair rugby coach Torben Nygaard spotted Skoubo while playing sport in an electric wheelchair and encouraged her to take up wheelchair rugby.
Hesitant at first, Skoubo developed a passion for the sport and has not looked back since.
“It was a great way to get exercise, however, I quickly realised that the tactical element of the sport was easy for me to grasp,” Skoubo said.
The fact that Skoubo is classified as a 0.5 point player means she does not impact the team limit of eight points on the court at one time, as all female athletes receive a 0.5 deduction from their classification.
“It is great for me as I get more playing time, however, it is also great for the team as we can put together a stronger lineup,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do in the next half of the year, but we have the players to challenge the best teams.
Denmark will play a tournament on their home court in the lead-up to the World Championship, and will meet a number of rival teams at the Canada Cup from 12-17 June.