Sydney 2018: Six surprises

The top unexpected outcomes from the wheelchair rugby Worlds 14 Aug 2018
two Colombian wheelchair rugby players tackling a Polish player for the ball

Colombia recorded an historic first Worlds victory against Poland at Sydney 2018

ⒸDisability Sports Australia
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

Japan’s victory over favourites Australia at the 2018 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship in Sydney, Australia, was the main shock of the tournament. But here are six other surprises from the competition that finished on 10 August:

1. USA miss another Worlds final

The USA is the most decorated team in wheelchair rugby history with three Paralympic and four World Championship gold medals. But eight years have passed since they last secured gold at one of the two major events. Japan’s upset against the US in the semi-finals was one of many surprise results, as one might have thought this would have been the USA’s golden year.

2. Canada’s horror start

Not many would have predicted Canada would start the tournament in the fashion they did. After winning silver at the 2014 edition, the No. 3 world ranked team dropped their opening game to lower-ranked France, but it was their loss to Poland that really turned heads. They recovered to eventually finish sixth.

3. Australia’s unprecedented turnovers

In the gold medal match, Australia turned the ball over more times in eight minutes than they had during the entire tournament. Those mistakes were not commonly seen from the reigning Paralympic and world champions. But they miraculously turned it around to lead in the third period of the finals against Japan. However, Japan held their nerve to make history and win their first World Championship.

4. Colombia and Poland’s rapid development

Colombia made itself known on the world stage with an honourable display at their first Worlds. Finishing 10th in their debut was an outstanding effort, with wins coming against Poland and New Zealand.

Poland posted three victories to be ninth overall, one place lower than when they finished eighth at their Worlds debut in 2010. Poland turned the tables on Colombia in the ninth-place playoff, as well as beating Ireland and upsetting Canada.

5. Ireland the only team without a win

Sydney 2018 went down as the most competitive in the sport’s history, with Ireland finishing the week as the only team without a victory. Ireland claimed gold at the World Championship Qualification Tournament, where they finished ahead of Colombia, Poland and New Zealand – all who also earned spots in Sydney via the Qualification Tournament. But the Irish were unable to carry it through at the main event.

6. France stronger than thought

France have steadily improved year and after, but the 2018 Worlds was when they appeared to be their strongest. Finishing fifth in Sydney was their best performance at a major tournament, and coach Olivier Cusin has a very balanced squad at his disposal heading into the 2019 European Championship. If they can finish in the top two, they will qualify for their third consecutive Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020.