After watching the sport online from afar, with hopes of competing, Australia’s men’s Para ice hockey team will embrace every moment when those hopes became reality at the 2018 World Championships C-Pool from 6-8 November in Vierumaki, Finland.
That is when the nation will debut their first men’s team in the sport.
“We know that this is the start of something big,” Australian team manager Emma Poynton said.
“It’s our first ever men’s team, and although there is trepidation about what we’re going into, the guys are extremely excited to get things started.”
The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) in collaboration with Ice Hockey Australia, have been working together to establish the sport domestically, after the APC received a grant from the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) development arm the Agitos Foundation to grow participation opportunities and to purchase equipment.
Fast forward 18 months, and Australia’s dedicated group of athletes will be competing in Pool-C against Finland and China – two nations with developing teams and high hopes.
“Pool C is considered the entry level of Para ice hockey and still somewhat developmental, and November will see all three teams in that pool debut,” Poynton said.
Gold Coast medallist join the team
Recruitment and interest has been encouraging since receiving the grant from the Agitos Foundation. Among the Australian side are well established Para athletes from other sports who have brought a disciplined and driven culture to the team.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist in shotput F38 Marty Jackson and Australian representative sit-skier Jason Sauer are two Para athletes included in the 11-man squad, while Great Britain Paralympian Gary Farmer will be leading the charge as head coach.
“It’s a brand new team, so there are no rookies so to speak or veterans, but it’s great to have athletes on the team that have had international experience in other sports,” Poynton said.
“It’s the likes of Marty and Jason, and even Tomas Klein (wheelchair rugby) and Joe Chivers (wheelchair basketball) who have played their sports at state level.
“Those athletes are pre-conditioned, they’ve got core stability but mentally they’re focussed and those newer to high performance sport on the team are really going to benefit.”
And despite Australia’s inexperience in the sport, the team have their sights set high.
“We want to win the pool,” Poynton said.
“We want to be competitive and successful and be able to climb the international ranks to then work towards getting ourselves into the Paralympic eight for Beijing 2022, or if not, the cycle after.
“It’s a rapidly growing sport, so now is the time to get our foot in the door.”
Australian team for Vierumaki 2018