22 July 2012

Gold Coast and World Challenge

Two weeks of basketball.

The first week the Gliders were on the Gold Coast for a training camp and two “friendly” games against the Germans. Friendly being emphasised because no game is ever friendly because everyone wants to win but they’re still called friendly because they don’t count towards a tournament but they’re more than a mere scrimmage. Gliders training sessions can be pretty intense as well - check out this bruise I got from a massive stack that was completely my own fault:

Most meals were at the Surf Club across from where we were staying at Main Beach. The lift to go up/down stairs was very slow and only fitted two small chairs at once so I very quickly learnt a new lift skill – going down stairs by myself. I have never had to try do it before, but after watching a few of the other Gliders do it I thought to myself that I should be able to do it – so I did.

We had two great “friendly” games against the Germans. The first game we lost but it was still a great offensive and defensive game for the Gliders. The second game we won by 1 point – in double overtime!! The second game went for over two hours! Double overtime plus a fairly long break when the shot clock decided not to work and staff spent a while trying to fix it. The solution was a shot clock iPad application.

The weather wasn’t very good while we were there; raining for the most of it. We had one day off and the weather was beautiful for half that day. On the day off some Gliders went to Sea World where KG won a basketball competition and SS got to hug a seal, and other Gliders went bargain shopping at Harbor Town. I had a day of relaxation and pampered myself to a new nail polish, movies and some book reading.

We got drenched on two nights when we had dinner at the Yacht club and we had to walk/push home in the rain. It wasn’t exactly pouring down with rain but it wasn’t a drizzle either. My lulu ‘Run in the Rain’ jacket had a push in the rain. It smelt like wet dog smell afterwards.

For the second week we flew from Brisbane to Sydney for a tournament named the Rollers and Gliders World Challenge which was held at Homebush/Olympic Park. We stayed at the Pullman Hotel which was pretty swish. Breakfast being a massive spread of breads, fruits, cereals, hot food, eggs made to order and Nespesso coffee (in miniature cups). Lunch was whatever you wanted (several restaurants in short walking/pushing distance) and dinner on level 1 baymerie style catered by the hotel. The beds were very soft (which I love!) and my room which I shared with CC was fairly spacious after some rearrangment of furniture.
On the first night there we tried on our Australian Paralympic team uniform just in case we needed to exchange sizes. The clothing is mainly 2XU and I won't say any more than this: we are going to look great!!

The four teams that competed in the women’s tournament were Australia, Germany, China and Japan. Japan are not going to the Paralympics so they have a few new faces on their team which they will be developing over the next few years. The three teams that competed in the men’s tournament were Australia, Great Britain and Japan.

We played one “friendly” game against China before the tournament started. We won this game 60 to 41. China flew into Sydney that morning so they were probably a bit tired (I definitely would not want to have to play the same day as travel). Every Glider hit the court and nearly all of us added to the score board.

Our first proper game was against Japan. We won this game 67 to 41. As I mentioned before, Japan have a few new players on their team, some being 13 or 14 years of age. We went through a few lulls where we lowered our intensity and did a few silly turn overs, especially the third quarter where Japan actually scored more than we did, but we managed to pull ourselves together and run the plays we wanted to play against Germany the next day. Like the day before, all Gliders hit the court and all but two Gliders added to the score board.

The next day we had a free morning before the game against the Germans in the evening. I went to the Nike and Adidas factories a short drive away with 3 other Gliders. I managed to find myself two pairs of new shoes and two tops, and for my husband I bought two tops and two pairs of shorts. Gliders know how to shop!

The Gliders played amazingly against the Germans. We started off strong (20 to 7 after the first quarter!) and played a strong end game despite the Germans getting pretty close at a few stages (they won the third quarter). We won the game 53 to 45. I’m so proud of the Gliders winning that game. The Germans have been the favourites to win the gold medal but we have beat them twice now! My dad and step-mum were at this game so I am glad they were able to watch me compete internationally for the first time in a game where we fought so hard and came out on top.

At this stage we hadn’t guaranteed ourselves a spot in the grand final. The next day we had to beat the Chinese team otherwise the top three teams would be in a tie for having 2 wins each and the teams going into the grand final would be decided by the for/against percentages. We didn’t want this to happen because we have been there and done that at the AOZ Qualification Tournament in South Korea last year. It was a close game against the Chinese – we had the lower score after the first half but we came back and had a great fourth quarter (scoring 21 to their 9 in the 4th q!) and finished on top! We won the game 57 to 45. We are in the grand final! 

The Germans won their game against Japan so we played them in the grand final. There was a massive crowed at the Sydney Olympic Sports Centre so the pressure was on the Gliders to get a win in front of a home crowd (which included many VIP’s from Basketball Australia and the Australian Paralympic Committee). We were down after the first quarter but we gave the crowd some ‘edge of the seat’ entertainment as the leaders switched between the Gliders and the Germans several times. Both teams had a pretty shocking shooting game but the Gliders reputable defence helped win the game by a narrow margin of 2 points. We won the grand final 48 to 46!

After the men’s grand final (won by the Aussie Rollers!), there was a short ceremony where the team captains of the Gliders and Rollers were presented with a trophy and the All Star 5 and MVP’s were announced for both the men and women. I was honoured with a spot on the All Star 5 which was a very nice surprise (we didn’t even know they were doing individual awards) and AM from the Gliders was awarded MVP as well as a spot on the All Star 5. AM was also awarded the Glider’s Player’s Player award. Very much deserved after several stellar shooting games. Basketball Australia also presented both the Gliders and Rollers with their Paralympic rings - a gift for being selected onto the Australian Paralympic Team. They're beautiful! It is unfortunate that it is too big for my pinkies and too small for every other finger. A few of the Gliders have discussed trying to get them re-sized at a jeweller.

Thank you to Dad and Neryl for driving up from Maitland to be at the two games against Germany. It was sad to say ‘see ya later’ after the grand final because I haven’t organised next year yet so I’m not sure when ‘later’ will be. Might have to organise a holiday over there to stock up on some good ol’ Hunter Valley wines.

Also thanks to the three Gliders who weren’t selected to go to London but still came to cheer us on at the World Challenge. It would have been hard being on the other side of the basketball court but your support means a lot to us. Once a Glider always a Glider :)

That night we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves before flying out the next day.
Mucking around with Kat's hair - my first attempt at a sideways braid
It was smiles all round for the Gliders, now having three wins against the Germans. We have improved so much this year, but we still have a lot of hard work to do before securing a gold medal. Teams such as the Netherlands will be tough to beat and we haven’t seen or played against the Brazil or Canadian teams in a while.

The next three and a half weeks for me will be filled with lots of shooting sessions, weights sessions at Jetts Fitness Kingsway, a talk for a school, an official farewell for the WA based Paralympians and some work and the start of semester two of university squashed in there somewhere. Oh, and my birthday just before we leave!

- 38 days to go til the London Paralympics!

05 July 2012

Official team announcement!

So it is official! I am honoured to be able to say that I will be representing Australia at the London Paralympics for wheelchair basketball!

I have actually known since the start of June when the Gliders had their training camp in Perth, however we were sworn to secrecy until the APC officially announced it. Which was this morning at the WA Basketball Centre!

Read the official media release on the APC's website: CLICK HERE!

ABC is the official broadcaster for the APC at the London Paralympics, but Channel 10 also aired a piece on TV tonight. To watch: CLICK HERE!

I would like to thank a few organisations:
and all of their respective sponsors. Without your contributions to sport in general, wheelchair basketball, the teams I play for and to me as an individual - I wouldn't be able to play the sport I love so much at the level I am able to.

Special mentions to:
  • My family, especially my husband Lee who has to put up with me being away all the time and who will be flying to London to cheer me along (look for him and his brother when camera's pan across the crowd!) and my Dad and step-mum in Newcastle, NSW who drive to Sydney or fly to Melbourne when they can to watch me compete. 
  • All the ladies at work who also put up with me being away all the time (thank you for the special lunch today!).
  • RAM Wheelchairs for making me a FANTASTIC basketball wheelchair to compete in at the London Paralympics. 
  • The rest of the Glider's squad and coaching staff! 
  • and this little guy who would like to come with me but unfortunately can't:
a) Taj cuddles for the camera b) Wanting to come with me c) Stealing my Australian playing singlet
Thank you to everyone else that has ever supported me or my team - it is greatly appreciated!

The following girls will be going to the London Paralympics for wheelchair basketball. If you have a Twitter account then feel free to follow their road to London as well!
Amber Merritt@bambibabydoll
Leanne del Toso@leannedeltoso
Bridie Kean@brideski
Cobi Crispin@CobiEllen
Shelley Chaplin@ShelleyChaplin
Sarah Stewart@SarahStewartAus
Tina McKenzie@tinamac8
Katie Hill @katie_lee_hill
Kylie Gauci@kyliegauci11
Sarah Vinci@Sarah_Vinci
Clare Nott@clarenott10
Amanda Carter@Amanda_Carter64

Of course, with every team announcement there are the handful of Glider's who weren't selected to be part of the team, despite the blood, sweat, and tears they endured and the hard work and sacrifices they made over the last 4 years. To my beautiful sissy, you will be right there with me in spirit. xx

Next week the 12 girls mentioned above will train on the Gold Coast before heading to Sydney for the Gliders World Challenge. Today I was interviewed and asked which other teams we would be competing against and I had a total mental blank. I play like a boss no matter who we play - no opponent should have an easy game against us! (I can now tell you that we will be playing against Germany, Japan and China). For ticketing information for the Gliders (and Rollers) World Challenge: CLICK HERE!

- 55 days til the London Paralympics

PS. The Western Stars came 3rd! I just realised I haven't written about the WNWBL finals yet. We were disappointed to not make the grand final, but we were super happy to win bronze. Congrats to the Melbourne girls for their back to back win. Their shooting % over the finals weekend was amazing!