• Are you Wheelchair Rugby Ready?
  • The only full contact wheelchair sport in the world
  • An invasion and evasion sport...
  • Actively played in 26 countries with more in development
  • Wrecking wheelchairs around the world since 1977
  • Combines the ethos of Rugby with elements of basketball and handball
  • Don't just sit there - get in the game
  • IWRF Partners
15 April 2016

Last wheelchair rugby spots for Rio at stake

Levi Ylonen at IWRF 2015 European Championships

By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

 

Six nations have one last chance to qualify for September’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

 

The final two spots are at stake at the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) 2016 Paralympic Qualifier Tournament, which begins Saturday (16 April) and goes until 22 April in Paris, France.

 

The tournament features Denmark, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, the USA and host nation France, and the top two finishers will advance to Rio 2016.

 

So far six nations have already qualified: Australia as the current world champions, Canada from the Americas zone, Japan from Asia, Great Britain and Sweden from Europe, and Brazil as the host nation.

 

Meet the squads looking to join the other six:

 

USA

The world’s No. 2 ranked nation will start the tournament as clear favourites to continue their impressive run of qualifying for every Paralympics since the sport was first introduced as a demonstration event at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics.

 

Rio 2016 marks the first year that the side has not automatically qualified for the Paralympics. But they should have enough firepower and experience to take one of the two spots on offer.

 

High-pointers Chuck Aoki and Josh Wheeler will once again play a key role. However team USA has prided themselves on their balanced line-up.

 

France

France may only be the third highest ranked nation at the qualification tournament, but the host nation have one clear advantage that may be enough to propel them to Rio —the power of home crowd.

 

With very little separating the remaining five nations in the rankings, France will approach the tournament full of confidence.

 

Riyadh Sallem (a 3.5-pointer) has a wealth of experience at the highest level and will need to be at his damaging best to ensure France secure the all-important ticket to Rio.

 

Denmark

The Danish team are No. 6 in the world rankings and fell just one goal short against Sweden in the semi-finals of the European Championships, which would have earned them automatic qualification.

 

Being the second highest ranked nation at the tournament adds extra pressure on Denmark. But the Danish confidence may come from beating European rivals France, Finland and Germany in all recent major tournaments.

 

Denmark has continued to improve since it hosted the IWRF World Championships in 2014 and are aiming to qualify for their first Paralympics.

 

Germany

After a poor 2014 World Championship campaign where they finished 11th, Germany has worked to put itself in a position to qualify for Rio 2016.

 

The Germans made the final four at the European Championships, where they lost to the eventual champions, Great Britain, and were very competitive against Denmark in the bronze medal match, falling 56-48.

 

Germany boasts a well-balanced line up which can be often difficult to match up against.

 

New Zealand

The Paralympic champions in 2004 have lost a lot of experience since their successful campaign at Athens. But New Zealand still possess a very dynamic roster that is capable of beating higher ranked teams.

 

Cameron Leslie (3.0 sport class) has been a mainstay in the starting line-up. His leadership on and off the court will go a long way toward New Zealand returning to the sport’s top stage.

 

Finland

They enter as the underdogs. But the world’s No. 11 ranked nation have received a major boost ahead of the last chance qualifier which may give them a slight edge over their rivals.

 

Canadian Benoit Labrecque is assisting Finland’s new coaches Jussi Immonen and Osku Kuutamo at the tournament.

 

What makes Labrecque’s new role in Finnish wheelchair rugby interesting is that he still is a head coach of Sweden, and will hope to assist another Scandinavian country to qualify for Rio 2016.

 

Finland received the call-up to play in the tournament after Ireland was forced to withdraw and will want to make the most of chance they have been given.

 

The competition and all matches will be broadcast live.

 

The tournament schedule is as follows (CET):

 

18 April

9:00am France vs. Finland

11:00am USA vs. Germany

1:00pm New Zealand vs. Denmark

3:00pm Germany vs. Finland

5:00pm France vs. Denmark

7:00pm USA vs. New Zealand

 

19 April

9:00am Germany vs. Denmark

11:00am USA vs. Finland

1:00pm Germany vs. New Zealand

3:00pm France vs. USA

5:00pm Denmark vs. Finland

7:00pm France vs. New Zealand

 

20 April

9:00am USA vs. Denmark

11:00am France vs. Germany

1:00pm New Zealand vs. Finland

5:00pm 5th vs. 4th

7:00pm 6th vs. 3rd

 

21 April

11:00am Semi-final 1

1:00pm Semi-final 2

3:00pm Fifth and sixth place matches

5:00pm Bronze medal match

7:00pm Gold medal match