The European Wheelchair Basketball Championships tip-off in less than a week; to mark the occasion I sat down with GB Women’s captain Sophie Carrigill to talk Rio 2016 Paralympics qualification, championship targets, home-court advantage and crowd support.
The 2015 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships will see the continent’s greatest teams descend upon the city of Worcester to play for both the European title and for their place at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, with the top four women’s teams qualifying for Brazil.
With qualification for Rio on offer for the top four teams, is making the semi-finals the goal for the Championships?
Making the semi-finals and qualifying for Rio is our first goal, but as a squad we’re targeting the finals. If we can put ourselves in a position where we are in with a shout of gold then it’s down to just one game, and anything can happen in a one-off contest. We know every game will be a challenge and the German and Dutch squads will up there with the favourites, but we’re ready and can’t wait to take on the best teams in Europe.
Have you been happy with the team’s preparations for the Championships?
We’ve had a really solid preparation schedule throughout the year that’s included several tough fixtures and tournaments away from Worcester. The spirit within the team is really positive and we’re all looking forward to getting out on the court and showcasing everything we’ve practised. We’ve all put in the hours and worked hard so it’s just a case of putting it together during the Championships.
How excited are you to play such an important tournament on home soil?
It’s going to be amazing getting the chance to play in front of family and friends in Worcester during such an important Championship. The city has been covered with posters advertising the event and I’m hoping we’ll be able to use the crowd to our advantage, with lots of local people coming down to check out our sport and cheering us on.
Do you hope the Championships can reignite some of the London 2012 Paralympic buzz and give more of a profile to wheelchair basketball?
We’re obviously focused on progressing through the Championships and finishing in as high a position as possible, but it’s always important to take the opportunity to showcase the sport and attract more people to play and watch it. It’s the perfect opportunity for people to come down and see how physical and entertaining wheelchair basketball can be. The games are going to be streamed online and the semi-finals and final will be available on the BBC’s red button, so it’s going to be easier than ever for people to take a look.