The first news of the event this year is that BT is now the main sponsor and for at least the next 4 years the event will be known as the BT Paralympic World Cup. On Tuesday the 19th of May, we are all gathered at the Manchester Regional Arena for the launch of the event as a whole.

The BT Paralympic World Cup will consist of 4 Sports over a week of action in Manchester. They are Swimming, at the Manchester Aquatic Centre, Athletics at the Manchester Regional Centre, Track Cycling at the Velodrome and Wheelchair Basketball, also at the Manchester Regional Arena.

Triple Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius and cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball medallists Jody Cundy, Natalie Jones and Joe Bestwick were on hand to officially open the event, with Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy joining Murray Treseder’s Great Britain wheelchair basketball team for their final training session before the 2009 Games.

Also present were Phil Lane who hosted the event and Suzi Williams, BT Group Marketing and Brand Director (pictured left). Said Suzi, “BT has a long history of supporting disability sport in the UK – in fact BT was the first corporate supporter of the British Paralympic Association 20 years ago.

“That’s why we are so excited to be here this week, starting our journey to 2012 as the new title partner of the BT Paralympic World Cup. BT is fully committed to doing everything we can to help make this event the very best it can be. We are delighted to welcome athletes from all over the world for six days of fantastic competition.”

And so the scene is set for another great Games in the City of Manchester. My co-commentator on the Wheelchair Basketball is Dan Strange and we will be sharing the commentary duties.

There are 4 teams in the Women’s competition and 4 in the Men’s. Hosts Great Britain will be joined by China, Mexico and the reining Paralympic Gold medallist, The Netherlands while the Great Britain Men will come up against World champions Australia, Germany and The USA. All of these teams have been to the Paralympic World Cup in the past and congratulations must go to the organisers who continue to attract the very best teams in Wheelchair Basketball from around the world.

Game 1 of this year’s tournament will see favourites, China take on The Netherlands and the Dutch girls showed that once again they meant business as they easily got the job done. Cher Korver was here again as was Van Oostrum, Huitzing and Oosterbaan. It would be difficult to look past the Netherlands retaining their trophy. The China girls are back in Manchester and once again it is a joy to have them back. Their glorious smiles are there for all to see and they have developed over the years into an excellent team.

My first game will be Mexico versus hosts Great Britain, and what an encounter it was? It was a wonderful game which went right to the wire. Mexico got off to a 6-1 start to lead 8-5 at the end of the first. GB came strong in the second and seemed to have done enough for the victory as they led 23-11 at the half.

The problem was that no-one told the Mexicans as the fought their way back into the game. They trailed by 4 going into the final quarter 25-29. It was an amazing game as the Mexicans silenced the home crowd by taking the victory 37-41.

The star of the game was Floralia Estrada who finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds but she was well assisted by Rocio Torres with10 and 10. Lucia Vazquez had a quiet game with 4 points and 7 rebounds but she did dish up 9 assists.

For GB, rising star Helen Freeman finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Speaking after the game, Freeman said, “It was a great match although the result was disappointing, however it’s a great experience to take forward to the future matches.”

Now it was time for the Men’s tournament to get under the way as Germany would take on Australia and the US would take on GB. These games could not be described as close in any way shape or form. The World Champions Australia were stunning and to be fair no-one was going to stop them winning this tournament. They destroyed the Germans with each and every player rolling on to the court doing their bit to assist their victory.

The Australians had been to a number of previous Paralympic Games in Manchester and had failed to take Gold on every occasion. This could be their year!

GB versus the USA was a real eye opener for the home crowd as the home team were put to the sword. The awesome Brian Bell put on a shod as he finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. He was stunning as he led the breaks got the rebounds and simply put the ball in the basket. He got great help from Chris Okon who hit 5…yes 5 three pointers in his 17 points. He was awesome.

The game was run by the sensational Steve Serio who finished with 11 points 8 rebounds and 8 assists. For the basketball purist, he was a joy to watch.

GB did not have an answer despite Highcock and Hall finishing with 10 points a piece. Says Head Coach Murray Treseder, “This was not the match we hoped to open our BT Paralympic World Cup with, but the guys on the team will gain a lot from this experience. We are looking ahead with London 2012 a long way to go but we will continue to prepare.”

So across these first 4 games we had seen all the teams and we knew what to expect from the BT Paralympic World Cup 2009.

We were in for some spectacular basketball and I was already getting excited.


Mike S


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