The 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships have tipped off today (16 August) in Hamburg, Germany. The women’s competition features two pools of six teams, with medal matches taking place on Saturday (25 August).
Here is what to look out for in each group:
Pool A - Australia, Canada, Brazil, Great Britain, Spain, Netherlands
The Netherlands enter as gold medal favourites, with a handful of experienced players returning from the Rio 2016 Games, including Mariska Beijer and Bo Kramer. The Dutch have looked more determined than ever since their bittersweet bronze in Rio, and they showed that when they won the 2017 European Championships. Now they are looking for their first World Championship title.
It is the Canadians who have a history of success on the Worlds stage with five titles and will be out to defend the one from 2014.
London 2012 silver medallists Australia are in Hamburg to prove they are still a force to be reckoned after not qualifying for Rio, while Great Britain fielded a team with plenty of potential at the last Games, where they met the Dutch in the third-place match.
Underdogs Brazil and Spain will try to stay competitive in the toughest pool of the women’s competition.
Pool B - Algeria, Argentina, China, France, Germany, USA
As the reigning Paralympic champions, USA carry the burden of being the favourite in this group. However, their Hamburg squad are without key contributors from Rio. The US still aim to secure their first Worlds medal since 2010 under the experience of Rose Hollermann and Abigail Dunkin, plus their new coach Trooper Johnson.
Germany are also fielding a very different squad from the one that finished runner-up in Rio. The wheelchair basketball powerhouses have medalled in every Worlds since 2006 but never won gold. They will try with their new head coach Martin Otto, plus some key Rio returners in Laura Fuerst, Marieke Miller and Marina Mohnen. The hosts will also hope their home crowd will act as a ‘sixth player’.
But neither the US or Germany know much about China, who can surprise after defeating Australia at the last two regional Championships.
Argentina and France both finished just off the podium in their respective qualifying tournaments.
After their groundbreaking Paralympic debut in 2016, Algeria will make more history as the first women’s team from their region to compete at a Worlds.