Gormanstown College, Co. Meath
7-9 February, 2013
Ireland, Holland (q), Czech Republic (q), Italy
Irish Wheelchair Association Sport (“IWA-Sport”)
About IWA Sport:
IWA-Sport working to create and support opportunities for people of all ages with a physical disability to take part in a wide range of sports and activities. IWA Sport currently working with 1500 people, providing sporting opportunities across 11 sports including athletics, boccia, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, swimming, table tennis, sailing, bowls, powerlifiting, handcycling and tennis. Throughout 2012 IWA-Sport hosted 217 field events.
This is the second time this qualification tournament has taken place in Ireland, IWA Sport having previously hosted the 2009 edition. IWA Sport made a bid for the event in August of 2012. The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation subsequently met at the Paralympic Games in London and announced that IWA Sport had been successful in their bid.
The 2013 European Wheelchair Rugby Championship finals will be held in Antwerp, Belgium, where the top 12 teams from Europe will compete for the title.
As with any international event, there was a huge amount of work in the planning stage of the tournament. Given the nature of the competition, selecting a suitable venue which would meet the the event requirements, particularly accessibility, was paramount. Other factors affecting the choice of location included suitability to cater for the hosting of matches, training and storage all in one. This is why Gormanston College Sports Hall was selected and proved to be the ideal venue.
In addition to logistics, various schedules needed to be planned including training, match and transport schedules, as well as a classification schedule for the participating athletes.
A co-ordination committee comprising of IWA-Sport management and the Wheelchair Rugby committee was put in place and met regularly to discuss all aspects of planning. Communication was on-going between the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation and IWA-Sport in the build-up to the tournament to ensure everything was being adequately planned for.
The choice of competition venue and team hotel could not have been better. Hotel and venue selection are very important for wheelchair sport events in terms of good access. Gormanston College had exactly what was required in terms of competition venue, while the close proximity and accessibility of the City North Hotel made for a relaxed environment for the participating teams.
The event attracted great attendances from Irish fans over the three days of competition, whilst a small number of international spectators travelled to support their teams. With a long and proud tradition of hosting international events down through the years, building on the legacy of the London Paralympic Games was always important, and to be selected as one of the first Paralympic sport events post London is a great honour for IWA-Sport.
IWA Sport was very fortunate to avail of the services of a large number of volunteers during the event. Roles taken on by volunteers included: bus drivers, table officials, merchandise sales people, spectator liaison personnel, physios and caterers. Many of these volunteers took significant time off work and study to ensure the smooth running of the event.
IWA-Sport hosted this event in 2009 but this year’s edition attracted much more interest. A big part of this is down to the London games, in addition to the work of IWA-Sport’s development officers’ right around the country promoting all wheelchair sports. This has resulted in the continued growth of IWA-Sport’s profile.
The only disappointment of the event was Ireland’s failure to qualify. The Gaelic Warriors were unfortunate to lose their opening game against fancied opponents Czech Republic, going down by a single point. This meant the home side had an uphill battle from the outset to gain one of the two qualifying spots. The Irish team gave it their all, but it was not to be and the both the eventual qualifiers, Czech Republic and Holland, played consistently well throughout the tournament.
What next for Irish Wheelchair Sport in 2013?
There’s a busy year ahead for all IWA-Sport’s disciplines, with a full schedule of events four the high participation sports. Throughout 2013 IWA-Sport will co-ordinate eight athletics meets, the wheelchair basketball league and cups, wheelchair rugby league, and national championships in swimming, tennis and archery.
IWA-Sport members will also form part of the Paralympic panels competing in the first year of the Rio 2016 Paralympic cycle, attending the Athletics World Championships in France, the European Para-Table Tennis Championships in Italy and the World Swimming Championships in Montreal. Junior teams will also travel to the UK and the US to compete in athletics events.
….and for the Gaelic Warriors?
While the Wheelchair Rugby side will not be going to the European Championship, they do have a busy schedule ahead with the Bernd Best tournament in Germany, the Rugby Mania tournament in Czech Republic and the Swiss Low Points Tournament.