First ever ParalympicsGB sitting volleyball teams selected
The British Paralympic Association today announced the athletes who will compete in the men’s and women‘s sitting volleyball teams for London 2012 – the first time ever that Great Britain will have both men’s and women’s teams represented at a Paralympic Games.
The selected athletes include: Martine Wiltshire (nee Wright), a 7/7 survivor who took up sitting volleyball after being injured in 2005; Netra Rana, a Gurkha who was injured on patrol in Afghanistan and who has come through the Ministry of Defence’s Battle Back programme; Charlie Walker, a former bomb disposal officer who lost his legs after contracting meningitis; and Richard Dobell, believed to be the only player in the history of volleyball to have represented Great Britain in all three disciplines of indoor, beach and sitting versions of the game.
Prior to London 2012, only standing volleyball teams have competed for ParalympicsGB. The BPA has worked closely with Volleyball England to ensure that Sitting Volleyball met all credible performance requirements, before confirming in September 2011 for the men and March 2012 for the women that the sport would receive home country slots at London 2012.
Today’s announcement confirms the athletes who will compete in those teams.
“I am very proud of these athletes today”, said Penny Briscoe, Deputy Chef de Mission (Performance) of ParalympicsGB. “We have always been clear that there are no free tracksuits: in order to be selected for ParalympicsGB, you have to demonstrate that you have got what it takes to compete on the biggest stage in disability sport. Just a few years ago there was no sitting volleyball programme in the UK, so the sport has come on hugely in the last few years. The BPA has worked very hard with the athletes and staff on this team, including helping them identify athletes at our Paralympic Potential Days and providing additional support and education through our Talent Transition Programme. It is as a result of our combined efforts that we can now announce these athletes, and I’m proud that all of our hard work has paid off.”
Martine Wiltshire, who was injured by the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London but who then joined the sitting volleyball team, commented today:
“It is amazing to be selected into the sitting volleyball squad to represent ParalympicsGB this summer. It’s the biggest sporting event on Earth, and it’s coming to the city where I was born. I have dreamt of being part of it and now I am going there to do my country proud. This has been a long journey but it does not stop here, as we now enter our final training phase. I would like to thank my family and friends for all their love and support they have given me in my quest to become a Paralympian. They are all amazing”.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, met the players today at City Hall as part of the today’s team announcement event. He sent his particular congratulations to Martine and her teammates. He said:
"The ParalympicsGB sitting volleyball team has a truly inspiring line-up of athletes who demonstrate the phenomenal power that sport has in bringing people together. As the huge demand for tickets has shown, the 2012 Paralympic Games has captured the public’s imagination and I for one am really looking forward to watching the action in a few months’ time. I would like to wish Martine and all of her teammates the very best of luck when they battle it out against the best teams from around the world this summer."
Also selected today is Richard Dobell, who previously captained the England indoor volleyball teams from 1987 to 2002 and competed on the international beach Volleyball tour. After injuring his knee, he then switched to sitting volleyball and as a result of his selection today, he is believed to be the first ever player to compete at the highest international standard in all three volleyball disciplines.
Amongst the selected athletes is Netra Rana, a Gurkha who has become a valuable member of the men’s team and was awarded the prize for Most Valuable Player (Libero) at the 2011 Continental Cup. He said:
“It has been a hard rehabilitation process for me but sitting volleyball has helped me physically and emotionally. I am very proud to be selected into the squad and I will be honoured to take to the court in the summer with my team mates to represent Great Britain and make my country and family proud. We cannot wait to get in front of the home crowd and show them what a great sport sitting volleyball is.”
“Today we have announced a group of athletes who are truly phenomenal”, said Craig Hunter, Chef de Mission of ParalympicsGB. “Not only have they worked incredibly hard to get to this point, but as individuals many of them have gone through difficult personal circumstances in order to do so. These athletes epitomise the power of the Paralympic Games to inspire people, both disabled and non-disabled, and the power of sport to change peoples’ lives.”
“This is a great milestone in the sport, as we build towards our first Paralympic Games”, said Dan Griffin, Performance Manager for Sitting Volleyball.
“When Volleyball England took control of the British Sitting Volleyball programme in 2009, there were just a few male players training. Three years on we have men’s and women’s squads with players training daily with a full time coach.
“London being awarded the 2012 Paralympic Games has played a major part in sitting volleyball’s evolution and development. A big thank you to UK Sport and the Lottery, without their help it would have been impossible for both teams to have climbed international rankings as quickly as they have done. I would also like to acknowledge the huge part the volunteers have played behind the scenes. London 2012 will give the whole sport the momentum to take into the Rio 2016 cycle and beyond. We are genuinely excited about the potential of this sport in Great Britain.
Lisa Wainwright, Chief Executive of Volleyball England said today:
“The selection today emphasises the strong development that both men's and women’s squads have made since we began delivering the programme. The Great Britain Sitting Volleyball programme was created following the award of the London Games and in that time we have built not only a fantastic group of athletes, but started the foundations to grow the sport for many years to come at all levels.
“This whole group is incredibly determined and the selection process is particularly hard for those who don't make it and they should be proud of their role in getting the team to this point, our thoughts are with them today also. Paralympic selection is something that every one of these athletes will remember for forever and we look forward to demonstrating the fantastic sport of sitting volleyball at London 2012. "
The selection of the 21 sitting volleyball teams brings the number of selected athletes to over the 200 mark, at 204 plus two sighted goalkeepers.
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A full team photo and individual pictures will be available to download from http://www.w-w-i.com/paralympicsgb/