Rotterdam 2023: Netherlands and Great Britain claim wheelchair basketball golds

First four teams to qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games decided at the first European Para Championships in Rotterdam 20 Aug 2023
A female wheelchair basketball player cuts a basketball net, her teammates celebrate
The Netherlands sealed their seventh straight title with victory at Rotterdam 2023
ⒸEuropean Para Championships 2023

The Netherlands won the women's wheelchair basketball tournament at the first European Para Championships, defeating Great Britain 58-36 in front of a passionate home crowd at Rotterdam Ahoy. Great Britain captured the men's title the following day with a 74-53 win over Spain. Both sets of finalists have qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, a year before they begin in the French capital.  

Seventh heaven for Netherlands

For the Dutch women, victory in Rotterdam marked their seventh straight title, a run which includes the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and the 2022 IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships.

The Netherlands triumphed over Great Britain in front of their home fans Ⓒ European Para Championships

Against Great Britain, Bo Kramer was the Netherlands' top-scorer with 18 points, while Mariska Beijer contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds. The Dutch team led from start to finish at Rotterdam Ahoy, igniting a big crowd dressed in orange. 

"I have no words. It's incredible to play such a game in a full house - perfect courts and people. It's amazing," Beijer said, adding that her mother, sister and her friends were also cheering for her from the stands.  

"I just had faith in myself and in the team. We prepared all situations and we know we can do it. We just had to finish our shots and we can always rely on our defense." 

In the match, Kramer opened the scoring immediately and the Dutch team opened up a 28-15 advantage by half-time, showcasing their intensity, accuracy and speed throughout the game. 

"I really can't put it into words to be honest, I'm just super proud (of the team). We knew it would be a tough game, but we also knew that our defense is good. That's something we showed again today," Kramer said. 

Robyn Love and Jade Atkin scored 10 points and nine points, respectively, for Great Britain, who were coming off of a ninth-place finish at the World Championships. Captain Sophie Carrigill said she was happy with how much the team improved in Rotterdam. 

Great Britain's silver medal secures them a spot at Paris 2024 Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

"I'm just proud of this group. I think the score doesn't reflect how actually close it was," Carrigill said. "The team's performance throughout the tournament has been on the rise.

"We've come back from a really difficult World Championships where we didn't do as well as we hoped and to come back and bring home a silver medal, it means the world." 

After trophy celebrations in front of their home crowd, Beijer said the team would have cola and chips to celebrate. But soon their focus will shift to trying to extend their winning streak all the way to Paris 2024. 

"Let's go for (title) number eight. I'm really excited for Paris. It's also accessible for people from the Netherlands so we're really looking forward to a great party there," she said. 

Spain took bronze in the women's event after edging Germany by one point in a dramatic extra-time victory.

Stronger together 

In the men's final, Lee Manning contributed 23 points and 17 rebounds to lead Great Britain to a 74-53 win over Spain.  

Great Britain's triumph is their eighth European title Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

Great Britain, the silver medallists at this year's IWBF World Championships in Dubai, turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead in the second period and never looked back. Phil Pratt and Gregg Warburton scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, to help their team claim their eighth European title. 

Lee Manning starred for Great Britain as they took the men's title in Rotterdam Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

"It's an amazing experience. It has been a great tournament," Manning said. "It was all about getting out there today, getting the job done. I was confident that if we played and stuck to our game plan, we would be in a good position." 

Ignacio Ortega led Spain's offense with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympian briefly cut his team's deficit to one point in the third quarter, before the British side hit back to extend their advantage. 

"We knew it was going to be a battle. GB has a great level and they have shown that for many years. Their talent is undoubtedly great," Ortega said. "We came into the final and did a really good first quarter and then we really just tried to go from there." 

"Unfortunately it didn't go our way in the end, but I'm just proud to be here, proud of the team and everyone." 

Playing two months after losing to USA by just one point in the World Championship final, Manning shared how the players supported each other to prepare for the European Para Championships. 

"It wasn't easy, especially I was one of the main guys out there so I took it a lot on myself. I felt like I let the team down and I felt like I could've done more," he said. "But all we had to do was stick together and stay together as a team. 

It was an emotional victory for Great Britain two months after their World Championships defeat Ⓒ European Para Championships 2023

“We knew we had a job to get done - it's a new tournament. We had to qualify for Paris. We had to win at the Europeans. We had to have the mentality that we're going to be ruthless." 

In the bronze medal match held earlier in the day, the hosts cruised to a 58-51 win over Germany. 

The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will feature eight teams in both the men's and women's tournaments. Four teams qualify through the zonal championships, including the European Para Championships, with the remaining four decided at the repechage tournaments in April 2024. 

The men's repechage will take place in Paris, while the women's tournament is set to be held in Osaka, Japan.