Competing with the best to be the best

In the end the Basketball Arena’s 10,000 capacity could not cope with the numbers who turned up to see GB and the best of the other teams play. Wheelchair Rugby was the ticket everyone was trying to get hold of. I was told that one of the most asked questions at the information booths on the park was ‘where can we get a ticket to watch wheelchair rugby’. There were massive queues for the opening game against the USA and this set the scene for a level of interest never seen in this country. Items on national news and headline pages in the national and international newspapers is not something we are used to. It is clear that there is a market for our sport and we must now build on the momentum created by the games to get new players, coaches, officials and volunteers who are able to support the growth in the game. Across the globe the game is also growing rapidly. It is increasingly professional and competitive and the wheelchair rugby results of London 2012 confirm that currently there is a performance gap between Europe and North America/Asianic zones. If we are honest, as we must be, then we are disappointed not to have at least made the semi-finals of the competition. We had set this as our target and had always hoped that we might just get into the bronze medal position. Despite the commitment and work of the Head Coach, staff and the athletes themselves it was not to be. On the bright side, we maintained our position as 5th in the world and we also confirmed our position as N01 in Europe. That is not good enough for us and nor should it be. We are ambitious and we are completely signed up to the ‘no compromise’ approach that is the UK Sport mantra. We are just over 2 years in to an ambitious change programme which with the right level of resource going forward will allow us to build on the solid foundations we now have in place and provide us with the right performance system for us to mount a stronger challenge to those across the Atlantic and down under. We also have some tremendously exciting new players and whilst we may not have won, Aaron Phipps and Dave Anthony in particular captured the attention of all for their skill, speed and strength – and of course in Dave’s case his blue mohican! I am confident that we can develop a group of athletes who will be able to compete with the best and will eventually be the best. That takes time – performance systems which consistently turn out winning teams take more than a couple of years to  grow – ask British Cycling which is now reaping the rewards of many years of system development and improvement. So I am hugely optimistic about the future we will reflect on our performance, we will evaluate, see what lessons there are for us and then we will move on. On behalf of GB I want to thank our many supporters, new and old for being behind us. Those who came to the games were amazing and really spurred us on. Congratulations also to Dave Woods on refereeing in his first Paralympic Games and to all the GB Table Officials who did a great job. Finally, I  want to congratulate all of the teams who took part in London 2012 and especially the medal winners and in particular Australia on winning Gold. We greatly admire your style of play and hope that when you get home you get the recognition you deserve as worthy winners of gold.

David Pond