25 June 2019
Richardson-Walsh helps Britain go for gold at European Championships
A first-ever European Championship gold is now the goal for Great Britain’s women’s wheelchair basketball team – thanks to an Olympic stalwart with form when it comes to making history.
Britain famously won silver at last summer’s World Championships and are now desperate to snap a run of six successive bronze medals at the continental gathering.
A top-four finish, securing qualification for the Tokyo Paralympics, and silver were the original targets for the tournament that runs from 30 June to 7 July in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
But all that changed after a warm-weather training camp in Croatia earlier this month where the squad were joined by Kate Richardson-Walsh, who took up a mentoring role.
Richardson-Walsh, who led Britain’s women’s hockey team to their first Olympic gold at Rio 2016, challenged them to aim to become European champions and it was an aim they readily accepted.
Richardson-Walsh in action at the 2016 Olympics
“Kate coaxed out of us a goal-setting period where our goal changed to winning the European Championships,” said head coach Miles Thompson.
“To me, that was a breakthrough moment. We really put ourselves out there in a spot where we say ‘we know exactly what we want.’
“I’m really proud of us for doing that. As simple a process as that may sound, it’s not.
“Kate just held us accountable, collectively, as staff, as athletes and as a programme. She wouldn’t let us out of it. That’s to her credit, and she was lovely about it.
“We came to a point where we said ‘yeah, this exactly what we want’ and now we talk about it openly.
“We don’t look at our shoes when we talk about our goals, we’ll look you in the eye and say our goal is to win the European Championships.”
A clutch of the squad have just returned from Thailand and the U25 World Championships, where a bronze medal fuels further optimism for a title challenge at the European Championships.
To me, that was a breakthrough moment.
Britain open their campaign against France on Sunday, knowing victory in their first two games against the French and Spanish will earn them a spot at the Paralympics next year.
Then come the formidable challenge of host nation Netherlands and Germany, who hold a vice grip on the European game having played out the last 14 finals.
But Britain beat Germany 60-37 in their own backyard at the Worlds last summer, a moment that five-time European bronze medallist Jude Hamer feels changed the game for her side.
“In Europeans, we’ve come really close and in 2015, we lost by a point in the semis to the Germans,” said the 4.0 star.
Hamer has been part of the British squad for a decade
“We’ve lost some really tight games but the Worlds gave us some of the resilience you need to win close games.
“We knew we could beat Germany but none of us believed we’d beat them in the way we did. It was just massively convincing, relentless and we never gave them a look-in.
“It was good for us to have that experience now so we’re used to the do or die environment of the final. We’ve got the emotion out of the way.
“This is my sixth European Championships. The final has been elusive and making a final allows us to move on - it’s just business now.”
Joint the ParalympicsGB movement
The ParalympicsGB movement
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