Jussi Immonen has been named the new head coach of the Finnish Wheelchair Rugby National team. The 35-year-old has a strong background from basketball coaching, and his new assistant coach Osku Kuutamo comes with coaching experience of the Finnish Wheelchair Curling team.
Finnish Sport Association of Persons with Disabilities (VAU) made a four-year contract with Immonen and Kuutamo, up until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Immonen and Kuutamo replace Valtteri Lehtinen and Erkki Lämsä, who stepped aside after the 2015 European Championships in Pajulahti, Finland, where Finland finished seventh.
Immonen and Kuutamo are both currently working in the Pajulahti Sport Institute and VAU also started a long-term development project in Wheelchair Rugby in cooperation with Pajulahti.
Immonen’s last job as a basketball coach was as an assistant coach of the Finnish national league side Namika Lahti. Immonen has also been a head coach in at the Lapuan Korikobrat in the Finnish second tier and in St. Pölten Dragons in the Austrian Bundesliga.
“The roots of wheelchair rugby are partly from basketball and there are some significant tactical similarities,” Immonen said. “I believe my background as a basketball coach will help me getting to know this sport better. A long-term project, good coaching team and international coaching environment are the things that inspire me in this job.”
The aim of the new project is to take Finland to the Paralympic Games in wheelchair rugby for the first time in Tokyo 2020. But Finland still has a shot at the Rio Paralympics.
Finland will meet USA, France, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand in the qualification tournament in Paris, France, on 26-28 February.
The top two teams get tickets to Rio.
The Finnish Sport Association of Persons with Disabilities is still searching for a consultant to help the new coach duo in their first international tournament.