Great Britain surprise wheelchair rugby winners

British team celebrates title against top-three ranked teams 29 May 2019
Two male wheelchair rugby players collide trying to fight for a loose ball

Great Britain's Jim Roberts and the USA's Eric Newby battle during the gold medal Four Nations match

ⒸLexi Branta Coon
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

“There wasn’t one game that was easy, but to go through the tournament and play the whole bench in every game is something we probably haven’t been able to do ever as a Great Britain squad.”

Great Britain recorded one of their most impressive wheelchair rugby victories, seeing off the world’s three top-ranked teams to win the Four Nations in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

In a phenomenal tournament that saw all four countries finish on three wins and three losses in the pool phase, Great Britain edged out the host nation, 49-47, to clinch gold on Saturday.

The biggest margin across the 14 matches was eight goals, with several requiring overtime.

The USA and Great Britain progressed to the final on goal difference, leaving Japan and Australia to battle for bronze.

British vice-captain Gavin Walker led the side in the absence of skipper Chris Ryan and was incredibly proud of the performance.

“It’s a really good feeling. We’ve been in a position where we’ve been so close before and we’re now truly competing with these teams at the top,” Walker said.

“Physically it proves we’re there and the work we’re doing is paying off.

“We were able to maintain our physical abilities on the court, but the other big thing that has let us down in the past is our mental strength.

“It’s something we’ve really been working on – the composure was something that really was needed in this tournament.

“There wasn’t one game that was easy, but to go through the tournament and play the whole bench in every game is something we probably haven’t been able to do ever as a GB squad.”

Unheard of

Walker admitted he had never been involved in a tournament with so little separating every team.

“You couldn’t really believe every game, not just our games but every other game finishing so close,” he said.

“I guess it’s unheard of, but it’s difficult to get the top teams together. With a tournament like this with the top four teams, it’s just fantastic. I think every team would have got something out of it,” Walker added.

Great Britain finished with three wins against the USA and a victory against world No.1 Australia, but was unsuccessful in two attempts against Japan.

“It was a fantastic experience and it’s going to be really great for our final tournaments this year and obviously Tokyo [2020] next year,” Walker said.

Preparation for Vejle

It is the perfect preparation for Great Britain’s title defence at the European Division A Championship in Vejle, Denmark, on 7-11 August.

“To win that, we get automatic qualification for Tokyo and we want to be as dominant as ever in Europe,” Walker added.

“We’re [reigning] double gold medallists and we’ve definitely got to go there and make sure we do our best and win that tournament.”

Japan claimed the bronze medal, 54-53, against Australia in a replay of the thrilling 2018 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship final.

Despite finishing fourth, Australia retains its No.1 ranking; the USA moves back to No.2; Japan has dropped back to No.3; while champions Great Britain leap over Canada to No.4.

Four Nations tournament results:

Day one

USA v Great Britain 50-51

Japan v Australia 53-52

Great Britain v Japan 59-60

Australia v USA 38-46

Day two

Great Britain v Australia 60-62

Japan v USA 45-49

USA v Great Britain 45-52

Australia v Japan 52-51

Day three

USA v Japan 54-53

Great Britain v Australia 58-52

Japan v Great Britain 55-54

Australia v USA 56-54

Day four

Gold medal game, Great Britain vs USA 49-47

Bronze medal game, Japan vs Australia 54-53