The men’s Wheelchair Basketball European Championships in Nazareth, Israel, last weekend made the London 2012 picture a little clearer with nine out of 12 qualification spots now filled.
Having finished in the top seven at last year’s World Championships, Australia, France, USA, Italy, Poland, Canada and Turkey had all secured their place for London 2012 and were last week joined by Germany, which took silver at the men’s Europeans. The competitions winners in Israel, Great Britain, qualified for London 2012 automatically as the host nation.
Now, with just three spots up for grabs for London 2012, Great Britain’s Joe Bestwick, a Beijing 2008 bronze-medal winner, said he expects Wheelchair Basketball at the Paralympic Games to be extremely competitive.
“There are a lot of teams out there that could do some damage," he said.
“There are probably six or eight teams that if they have a good day and somebody else had a bad day, could take on anyone in the world.”
The three remaining spots will go to the highest finishers from this year’s African, Asian-Oceanic and American Championships that have not yet qualified.
As reigning Paralympic and World champions, Australia will head into London 2012 as favourite however Bestwick, believes Canada and USA will provide close competition, in addition to a surging French squad.
At London 2012, the preliminary Wheelchair Basketball games will be held at both the North Greenwich Arena and the newly purpose-built Basketball Arena, which holds 12,000 spectators. All the quarter-final, semi-final and medal games will take place at the North Greenwich Arena.
“It’s such a fast, aggressive, high-action sport, that I think it’s going to be the most exciting sport at the Games,” Bestwick said.
“We’re all competitive people. You want to get the ball, so you’ll tilt the wheelchair up onto two wheels to try to get extra reach to get the ball. Sometimes you misjudge it or there’s some contact and you do come flying out, and you hit the ground pretty hard. But it’s part of the game.”