Seven wheelchair rugby stars named Ones to Watch
By Beau Greenway for IPC
With just five days to go until the IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championships begin, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) together have announced the seven wheelchair rugby Ones to Watch athletes for the next Paralympic cycle.
The IPC’s Ones to Watch initiative showcases the top athletes around the world, with all of the wheelchair rugby selections having played key roles in their teams’ top performances, and they all have had an impactful presence in the world’s media.
Ryley Batt is arguably the most recognisable name on the Ones to Watch list, as the 24-year-old has already competed in three Paralympic Games and spurred Australia to gold at London 2012 by scoring 37 goals in the final against Canada and a total of 160 total in the tournament.
Sehmi is a veteran in the game and has been a major part of Channel 4’s Paralympic campaign, while Hjert is a former able-bodied ice hockey star who has received major media coverage back home after an accident that forced him to switch to wheelchair rugby.
Belgium’s 1.5 player Peter Genyn is included in the Ones to Watch list but may miss out on the European Championships while recovering from a recent hip injury. He will be back for the road to Rio, though, and is expected to help Belgium better their seventh-place finish from London 2012.
Also on the list is rising Canadian star Zak Madell, who only made his international debut in 2011 but already helped his team win silver at London 2012. The 19-year-old is one to keep a close eye on for years to come in the 3.5 classification.
Media friendly Chuck Aoki of the USA, who led his team to a bronze-medal finish at London 2012, is also included. Aoki recently helped the Americans regain the world’s No. 1 ranking by leading the team to the title at the 2013 Denmark Wheelchair Rugby Challenge.
Japan’s Daisuke Ikezaki, a veteran 3.0 player known for his defensive transition and superb speed and quickness, rounds out the list.
These names are not necessarily the Ones to Watch athletes for Rio 2016, but are the ones to keep your eyes on throughout the upcoming regional and World Championships.
A number of other activities will also be implemented across social media in a concerted effort to boost the profiles of these athletes and make them household names for years to come.
The IPC’s Ones to Watch campaign launched in the lead-up to London 2012, when a new section was included within Paralympic.org, entitled Ones to Watch. This series of pages was designed to raise the profiles of leading medal contenders in Paralympic sports and act as an essential media resource.