The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has announced the 12 wheelchair rugby players set to compete for ParalympicsGB at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in September, with most of the players having been part of the team that won the 2015 European Championships.
Alan Ash returns from a four year break that saw him miss London 2012 Paralympics to compete in his fifth Games. Jonny Coggan makes his fourth Games appearance following the Paralympics in Athens, Beijing and London, while Bulbul Hussain and Mandip Sehmi both return for their third consecutive Games.
The team also includes 11 European Champions, including Ryan Cowling who was part of the team that brought home the gold medal at the official Rio 2016 Test Event earlier this year.
Team captain Chris Ryan, 25, said:
“I cannot put into words how proud I am to lead this incredible team of athletes. We have come together and played together for several years now and we have a great squad ethos.
“We have had an incredibly tough few years of training and preparing for major competitions, but there is no competition bigger than the Paralympics. I know all our hard work will pay off when we get out there to compete for ParalympicsGB later this summer.”
Ash, 43, will be the oldest member of the wheelchair rugby team travelling to Rio: “I have worked hard over the last three years to re-establish myself in the GB team after missing out on selection for London 2012. I have put in so much this time around, so much sweat and time on the court and in the gym. But to know that I will have the honour of competing for ParalympicsGB again at my fifth Paralympic Games, it just makes it all worthwhile.
“Pulling on that jersey again will be an emotional moment,” he added.
The team also includes players who enjoy an array of hobbies and careers. Newcomers such as Gavin Walker has served nine years in the fire service. Jim Roberts has achieved a 1st Class honours degree in Architectural Design, and Cowling previously taught scuba diving for wheelchair users.
Walker has been vice-captain of the team since summer 2015. The father-of-two will make his Paralympic debut in Rio.
He said: “I started playing rugby in 2011 and I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then! I never thought I could represent my country in sport, so I am so excited and pleased to have reached this point and I can’t wait to get out to compete in Rio. I’d like to thank everyone that has supported me to reach this point, including my amazing family. I really want to make them proud.”
Penny Briscoe Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Rio 2016, said:
“This wheelchair rugby team has a fantastic blend of experience and up-and-coming talent that it is a really exciting prospect for Rio. This group has trained together for most of this cycle, so coming up to four years, and you can really see that on court, in the way that they work so well together.
“This is a sport that really caught the public’s attention in London with its bruising on-court battles and fast pace. I am confident that the British public will embrace the sport and this team again in Rio.”
Lorraine Brown, Performance Director and Team Leader for Wheelchair Rugby, said:
“I am delighted for these athletes today, it’s a fantastic achievement. Today’s announcement is the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort over many years and as a team sport, I have to pay tribute to those who have not made the final cut as they have all played their part in our journey towards Rio 2016.
“We still have a lot of hard work to do as we maximise our final preparation with the selected team, and I am excited to see them in action out in Rio and what they can do.”
Thursday’s announcement brings the number of selected athletes to a total of 38, across the sports of sailing, judo, table tennis, powerlifting and wheelchair rugby.
Selected athletes (wheelchair rugby):
Jonathan Coggan (0.5)
Bulbul Hussain (1.0)
Ryan Cowling (1.0)
Mike Kerr (1.5)
Coral Batey (1.5)
Gavin Walker (2.0)
Chris Ryan (2.0)
Alan Ash (2.0)
Ayaz Bhuta (2.5)
Jamie Stead (2.5)
Mandip Sehmi (2.5)
Jim Roberts (3.0)
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.