Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thai-Japanese Bangkok Youth Center, Bangkok —The Australia men’s national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Rollers, and the Australia women’s national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Gliders, won gold medals on Friday, the final day of the Asia–Oceania Zone Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. The eight day championship was opened on November 22.

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Ten countries competed for places at the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) World Championships next year — ten in the men’s: Japan, Iran, China, Malaysia, Taipei, Australia, Korea, Kuwait, New Zealand and Thailand; and four in the women’s: Australia, Japan, China and Thailand. For the Australians, it was a rare opportunity to play teams from neighboring countries. Their efforts to help other teams were appreciated; after one game the Kuwait men led a cheer of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” To which the Thai women replied: “Oi! Oi! Oi!”

Both the Australian teams went through the tournament undefeated. The Gliders defeated China in the gold medal game 57–35. The Rollers then took to the court and defeated Korea 63–46. Iran and Japan won the men’s and women’s bronze medal matches.

This was one of four zone championships. The zones correspond to those of the IPC and FIBA: Americas, Europe, Asia–Oceania and Africa. Each zone is guaranteed one place at the World Championships. Under recently-introduced rules, performance at the Paralympic games gains additional spots for the zone, not for the country. Only the home team is guaranteed a place.

The new zone system has already proved controversial, with Algeria defeating South Africa in the recent Africa Zone Championships in Angola to grab the sole spot allocated to Africa, and Canada missing out on one of the four men’s spots for the Americas zone. In a shock result, these places went to the United States, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia. Great Britain, Turkey, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands are to round out the championships as the men’s teams from the European Zone.

The men’s World Championship are to be held in July next year in Incheon, South Korea, while the women’s are to be in Toronto, Canada. Maureen Orchard. President and Secretary General of the IWBF told Wikinews the women’s competition will in no way be inferior to the men’s. The women are to be put up in a five-star hotel, and play at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Without their men’s team competing, the women’s competition is expected to generate considerable interest in Canada. The home team is to be joined by teams from the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, France, the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru to compete against the winners from the Asia–Oceania Zone.

The sport of wheelchair basketball has great popularity. In London, additional seats at the North Greenwich Arena sold out online within minutes.