Wheelchair rugby teams go for podium at Asia-Oceania Championship
One nation will also earn a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics at the tournament in Gangneung04 Sep 2019
Japan's Yukinobu Ike and Australia's Chris Bond collide during the Canada Cup 2016.
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC
New Zealand, South Korea and Thailand have an excellent opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Asia-Oceania Championship beginning Friday in Gangneung, South Korea.
With tournament favourites Japan and Australia, the respective 2018 World Championship gold and silver medallists, already locked in for the eight-team field at Tokyo 2020, the Asia-Oceania zone spot will be awarded to the highest-ranked of those three nations by the end of the tournament in Gangneung.
Australia enters as the defending champions and will be gunning for their eighth gold medal since the Championship was first staged in 2001.
World champions Japan will want to have their say and claim gold for the second time to ensure they enter a home Paralympic Games in red-hot form.
The squads are as follows:
While the pressure is off the Steelers in regards to Paralympic qualification, they are expected to remain competitive in Gangneung. The gold medal loss to Japan at the 2018 Worlds in their home country still hurts. So taking some early bragging rights into Tokyo 2020 will be Australia’s aim.
Squad: Ben Fawcett (0.5), Michael Ozanne (0.5), Anthony Gray (0.5), Jake Howe (1.0), Josh Nicholson (2.0), Andrew Nicholson (2.0), Andrew Edmondson (2.0), Shae Graham (2.5), Jayden Warn (3.0), Ryley Batt (3.5), Chris Bond (3.5), Nicholas Scott (not classified).
Japan have gone from hunters to the hunted after upstaging Australia for gold in Sydney last year. Japan broke through for their first Paralympic medal in wheelchair rugby by taking home bronze at Rio 2016 and are building nicely for Tokyo 2020. They must ensure that good form at major tournaments continues with a strong display at the Asia-Oceania Championship.
New Zealand moved to No.9 in the world rankings after Brazil missed the podium at the Americas Championship in Lima, Peru, last week. But by no means would they be assuming any certainties to qualify for Tokyo 2020. If results go as predicted, the Wheel Blacks will be playing South Korea in the Asia-Oceania bronze medal match for the third consecutive time and the Tokyo spot will go to the winner.
The host nation will enter the tournament full of confidence knowing they have been closing the gap to nearest zone rivals New Zealand more and more each year. South Korea fell to New Zealand in the 2017 bronze medal match by only three tries (44-41) after losing to the Wheel Blacks by 18 in 2011 and 16 in 2015.
Championship medals: None
Paralympic medals: None
Head coach: Lee Seunghoo
Squad: Kim Geonyeob (1.0), Choi Jaewoong (1.0), Park Seungcheol (1.0), Kim Do Yeong (2.0), Park Jung Ho (2.0), Park Jieun (2.0), Park Seongmin (2.0), Park Ucheol (2.0), An Takeyun (2.0), An Yeongjun (2.5), Hwang Hee Cheol (3.0), Lee Song Hui (3.0).
Making their debut at the Asia-Oceania Championship, Thailand will gain plenty of valuable experience playing against world class opponents at this year’s event. The developing wheelchair rugby nation will not be judged on results, but more so on how competitive they can be against the best from the zone.