The journey to the 2014 IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships reach the final stages, with the Australian Gliders women’s national team departing for Europe today.
Ahead of their opening game of the World Championships in Toronto, Canada, the Gliders head to Germany and The Netherlands for a series of games against medal-calibre opposition that will have the team battle hardened for their opening fixture against the USA.
The first stop for the Gliders is Germany, where they will take part in the World Super Cup of Wheelchair Basketball in a two-day round-robin tournament against 2012 London Paralympic gold medallists Germany and bronze medallists The Netherlands on 7-8 June in the city of Frankfurt.
After four games in two days, the Gliders will head west to Holland, where they will base themselves for a week from June 10, training and playing practice games against the Dutch national team.
Australian Gliders Head Coach Tom Kyle said his team is ready for the challenge ahead and believes the European preparation is the perfect lead-in to the World Championships.
“For the team it’s all about game play at this point of the preparation,” Kyle said.
“We’ve got the skills, we’ve got ability – the coordination of the team into game play situations is the focus now.
“Playing against the two other top three teams in the world in Germany, who are ranked one, and The Netherlands, who are ranked three – and we’re sandwiched in between them at number two – you don’t get a better opportunity to prepare for a World Championship than playing the best teams in the world just before the tournament.”
Kyle announced his team for the 2014 IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships last month, naming a final 12 with plenty of international experience, including nine players from the team that claimed the silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Headlining the team are veteran trio Kylie Gauci, Sarah Stewart and Shelley Chaplin, who bring nine Paralympic Games appearances to the team.
Coming off an outstanding tour of Canada and the USA in March, Cobi Crispin and Amber Merritt will be eager to further enhance their growing reputations as two of the premier players in women’s wheelchair basketball.
They will be joined by established Gliders stars Clare Nott, Sarah Vinci, Leanne Del Toso, Bridie Kean and Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy, further enhancing the big tournament experience within the team.
Kyle included two players who will make their major tournament debuts in Canada, with the exciting duo of Stephanie van Leeuwin and Shelley Cronau earning the chance to help the Gliders end a 12-year World Championship medal drought.
It has been a significant medal drought for the Gliders on the World Championship stage, reaching the semi-finals, but no podium finish since 2002 – missing out on medals at the 2006 and 2010 tournament.
The 2014 IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships take place in Toronto, Canada from 20-28 June.
Australian Gliders Team for the 2014 IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships
Shelley Chaplin – Victoria
Cobi Crispin – Victoria
Shelley Cronau – MineCraft Comets
Leanne Del Toso – Victoria
Kylie Gauci – Stacks Goudkamp Bears
Bridie Kean – MineCraft Comets
Amber Merritt – The Be Active Western Stars
Clare Nott – The Be Active Western Stars
Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy – Stacks Goudkamp Bears
Sarah Stewart – Sydney University Flames
Stephanie van Leeuwen – Sydney University Flames
Sarah Vinci – The Be Active Western Stars
By Basketball Australia