Rio 2016 preview: Wheelchair rugby
By Beau Greenway for IWRF & IPC
Defending world and Paralympic champions Australia will enter wheelchair rugby at Rio 2016 as gold medal favourites in what has been regarded as the most evenly matched Paralympic Games competition in history.
Top seeds Canada, along with powerhouses USA and Japan and an immensely talented Great Britain team, all have the potential to spoil the Australians’ party, while European hopefuls Sweden and France both earned the right to play on the big stage and the power of a home crowd advantage shouldn’t be overlooked when teams face Brazil.
The competition begins Wednesday 14 September at the Carioca Arena 1, with pool matches held until 17 September, before the medals are decided on 18 September.
An intense rivalry is to be expected between Australia and Canada. The defending champions got the better of the Canadians for gold at London 2012 and repeated the feat two years later at the World Championships.
Both Australia and Canada have been drawn together in Pool A, alongside Great Britain and Brazil, while USA, Japan, Sweden and France make up Pool B.
Australia and Canada will be expected to progress, but Great Britain has had wins against both nations in major tournaments before and are more than capable of producing on the world’s biggest stage.
USA will start strong favourites in Pool B, with Japan also expected to make it through to the medal play-offs and ensure the world’s top four ranked teams are left standing at the end of the competition.
Despite the fact Australia currently holds both the Paralympic and world titles, USA will be full of confidence after defeating all of their major rivals at the recent Canada Cup, which saw them return to the No. 1 world ranking.
Location: Carioca Arena 1
Schedule: 14-18 September
Mark your calendars for:
Wednesday, 14 September
•10:30-12:00: Preliminary match 1 Australia vs. Great Britain
•19:15-20:45: Preliminary match 4 Canada vs. Brazil
Thursday, 15 September
•12:45-14:15: Preliminary match 6 Great Britain vs. Canada
Friday, 16 September
•16:00-17:30 Preliminary match 11 USA vs. Japan
•19:15-20:45 Preliminary match 12 Canada vs. Australia
Saturday, 18 September
Sunday, 19 September
•09:00-14:30: Medal events
Ones to watch:
•Zak Madell (CAN): Arguably the world’s most dangerous wheelchair rugby player, he led Canada’s scoring at his first Paralympics at London 2012.
•Ryley Batt (AUS): Rio 2016 will be his fourth Paralympics, but he is not showing any signs of slowing down and remains a hard match-up due to his mobility.
•Chuck Aoki (USA): Known for his all-around game and leadership on the court, Chuck is regarded by many as the best 3.0 classified player in the world.
•Daisuke Ikezaki (JPN): The Japanese veteran continues to be a dangerous proposition with his speed across the floor.
•Jim Roberts (GB): Has taken his game to the next level since the 2014 World Championships and will be a key figure for team GB’s medal hopes.
How to follow:
Watch www.IWRF.com for daily stories and score updates.