Czech wheelchair rugby ready for uphill climb
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC
The Czech Republic will be one of 12 teams in the IWRF European Wheelchair Rugby Championships, which run from the 12-17 August in Antwerp, Belgium, and they may have the biggest hill to climb of any competing nation.
The No. 18 team in the world will more than certainly have their work cut out for them in Pool A of the tournament, where they will be pitted against top seeds Great Britain, host nation Belgium, Germany, Finland and Austria.
David Lukes has captained the Czech Republic since 2004 and is hoping they can achieve their first-ever top-10 finish at a European Championships and eclipse their previous best of 11th achieved in both 2007 and 2009.
“Our goal is to finish within the top 10 and avoid the qualification tournament for the next Europeans,” he said. “The secret goal is place within top eight, so we can keep the best equipment guy.”
Lukes admitted that in order to reach their goal they need to support and play for each other on the court as well as keeping errors to a minimum.
The captain added “It is also important to not underestimate our opponents, which applies especially to the weakened Austrian team.”
“We look forward to every game and it is important to finish every game with good feeling and our heads held high.”
The Czech Republic have had experience playing against all nations in Pool A, with the exception of Finland, which is the whole team is pleased about.
The team has also had plenty of court time in the lead-up to the championships.
“Since the European qualification in Dublin where we qualified from second place after a close loss to Netherlands, we have put all our efforts and finances into training and preparation,” Lukes said.
“We practiced twice a week, identified some quality tournaments and also thanks to support from major foundations, participated in the Metro Cup 2013 which was a valuable experience for us.”
“The core of the national team also played in couple of small tournaments, and the Czech National League was adjusted to increase the competitiveness of team composition.”
Lukes also said Jarolsav Filsak’s move to the Prague Robots organisation has been vital because now the entire Czech national team can train together in the same city.
Filsak has been a key player for the Czech team and was recently rewarded for his great form with the MVP at the Metro Cup.
Assistant captain Ales Kisy and Petr Oppenauer have also made great progress in the sport as of late, while Jiri Plesko has worked hard to make his way into the starting lineup and is gaining some valuable experience at the top level.
The Czech team will depart for Antwerp on Saturday (10 August) and be ready to go for their opening round clash with Germany on 13 August.