The path to Paris has begun for the Australian Gliders who have selected the teams that will play for a spot at next year’s Paralympics.
Selectors have picked the 5x5 team for January’s International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Asia Oceania Championship in Bangkok, Thailand where the winner will qualify for the Paris Games with second and third earning a place in the Women’s Final Qualification Tournament.
A Gliders team will also travel to Japan in February for the Osaka Cup.
The team is headlined by the inclusion of three-time Paralympic medallist (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012) Shelley Matheson (nee Chaplin) who returns to the court for the first time in five years and following the birth of her two children.
Matheson says she is thrilled to be back in green and gold.
“The support I’ve been shown from my teammates, coaches and Basketball Australia to balance sport and family life has been incredible,” she said.
“I have a lot of knowledge and experience to share with this team and I’m excited by the talent we have and what we can achieve with this young group. Four months ago, I never thought I would be here, basketball was not on my radar but the opportunity was too exciting to pass up. I’m working really hard at home to be ready for qualifiers in January.
“I’m motivated by the chance to wear the green and gold again be the best I can be, but this time around I’m also motivated to share this journey with my family.”
Sara Houston is no stranger to the big stage after competing in the Seven Network’s Australian Idol this year.
After making her first appearance for the Gliders in a series of friendlies against Japan, hosted at the AIS in 2021, Sara will be look to hit the high note as Australia play for a ticket to Paris.
“I figured what life had already thrown at me couldn’t be harder than achieving this childhood dream of mine but turns out it’s been pretty hard,” Houston explains.
“It’s taken actual blood, sweat and tears and some serious revaluations and realignment of my life and mindset but looking back and seeing the progression I’ve made in the last three years, that in itself is something special.
“I owe all of it to my coaches, my family and of course my teammates.”
Gliders coach Craig Campbell
“We definitely got the world talking after finishing in 6th place (4-4 record) at the IWBF World Champs in Dubai. The inclusion of players like Shelley provides an opportunity to set new standards for the playing group with teammates who know ‘what it takes to win, when it’s important to win’ as we continue our journey towards Paris 2024,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot more success in recent years while we’ve cultivated a culture over the past two years where in order to be the best player, you must first be the best teammate.
“All squad members lived that at our recent induction camp at the AIS, giving us a competitive team ready to take on Japan and the Silver medallists from Tokyo 2020 and Dubai 2022 China.”
Affectionaltey known as the ‘Friendship Games’, the Osaka Cup tournament gives athletes and staff the opportunity to make an impact beyond the court by giving back to local communities through clinics.
Campbell says the tour will give athletes valuable court time and formidable opposition in the likes of Great Britain, Canada and host nation Japan.
“Our aim for Osaka will be to come home with more confident athletes ready for the packed calendar of international games in 2024,” he said.
Australian Gliders captain Hannah Dodd has high hopes for her team.
“Obviously, we’ve had some big changes recently but I believe we can put in a strong performance in Thailand and get the job done. I’m honoured to be continuing as Captain in the lead up to Paris 2024 and hope that I can do the players and the staff proud.”
|Katelin-Marie Gunn||Maryanne Latu||Jade Penny||Taishar Ovens|
|Shelley Matheson||Jessica Cronje||Hannah Dodd||Isabel Martin||Jade Penny||Sara Houston|
|Maryanne Latu||Georgia Munro-Cook||Taishar Ovens||Ebony Stevenson||Stephanie van Leeuwen||Sarah Vinci|
|Shelley Matheson||Jessica Cronje||Annabelle Dennis||Breanna Fisk||Katelin-Marie Gunn||Sara Houston|
|Maryanne Latu||Georgia Munro-Cook||Taishar Ovens||Victoria Simpson||Ebony Stevenson||Stephanie van Leeuwen|
Head to IWBF for more