France want podium at wheelchair rugby Euros
By Beau Greenway | Courtesy IPC
Jonathan Hivernat emerged as one of the best high-point players last year and now wants to lead France to their best-ever wheelchair rugby achievement.
The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) 2017 European Championship will hit off on 27 June in Koblenz, Germany, and Hivernat has seen his team improve with each competition.
“The team has made so much progress this year, developing new lines and setting up a development plan for new players,” Hivernat, a 3.0 classified player, said.
“Each tournament improves us a little more and makes us harder to beat.
“We did all the European tournaments in order to improve the cohesion and the details that we lack to be better.”
France’s wheelchair rugby programme has moved up the rankings over the past four years.
Now ranked No.7 in the world and No.3 in Europe, the new-look side will try to better their fifth place finish back in 2015.
The 2011 European Championship was France’s first and brought their best result with a fourth place finish, before going on to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Now, the 26-year-old said the French team has two key goals it wants to achieve in Koblenz: finishing in the top four to qualify for next year’s IWRF World Championship, and reaching the podium for the first time at the Europeans.
However, winning the event will mean even more to Hivernat and his teammates.
“That would be the icing on the cake because the world level has very much tightened and the places for competitions are harder and harder to get,” Hivernat said.
“This will remain etched in our minds forever and we will set new goals.”
Hivernat said France will draw upon its efforts from the Europeans in 2015 and the performance at the last-chance qualifier for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Paris early last year as inspiration.
“We have the will to always evolve and progress,” he said.
“Above all, the key was the determination, the desire to achieve a dream to be realised in front of our fans and the heart of this team.
“This team gives a lot and never stops these efforts to defend the colours of the nation.”
France was drawn in Pool A to face Sweden on Day One, followed by Finland and host Germany. Defending champions Great Britain, Denmark, Poland and Ireland will battle it out for the honours in Pool B.
The tournament will take place at the CONLOG Arena in Koblenz and runs until 1 July. The top four teams will secure spots at the 2018 IWRF World Championship in Sydney, Australia.