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Gliders’ Road to Redemption Starts with Tokyo Paralympics Announcement

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Australia’s women’s wheelchair basketball side, the Gliders, are primed to make their return to Paralympic competition at the Tokyo Games, nine years after winning the silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Australia’s women’s wheelchair basketball side, the Gliders, are primed to make their return to Paralympic competition at the Tokyo Games, nine years after winning the silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Paralympics Australia has announced its 12-player Australian Gliders squad to take on the world’s elite wheelchair basketball nations in Tokyo next month.

The Gliders’ run of four consecutive medals between 2000 and 2012 was finished when the Team failed to qualify for Rio 2016.

Among the 12-player squad is Paralympic debutant Jessica Cronje, who was one of the recipients of the Kurt Fearnley Scholarship in 2020. 

The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is a partnership between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW. 

The scholarship is named in honour of para-sport legend Kurt Fearnley AO, provides financial support to talented individual para-sport athletes based in NSW. 

The initiative was formed in 2019 and receives training support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport whilst being fully endorsed by Paralympics Australia. 

2020 KURT FEARNLEY SCHOLARSHIP HOLDERS UNVEILED

Six budding young para-sport athletes have already benefited from the words of encouragement and inspiration of one of Australia’s greatest ever athletes after being named as recipients of the 2020 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship.

Two players who were named in the squad, Sarah Vinci and Amber Merritt, remain from the 2012 Team and another squad member, Hannah Dodd, represented Australia in Para-equestrian at London before switching sports. 

Cronje joins teammates Mary Friday, Isabel Martin, Taishar Ovens, Ella Sabljak, Shelley Cronau, Natalie Alexander, Bree Mellberg and Georgia Munro-Cook who are all set for their Paralympic debuts.

“It’s official now, it’s actually going to happen and that’s really exciting,” centre Munro-Cook said.

“We’ve been working really hard to get to where we are, where we can represent Australia at the Paralympic Games.

“We’re a close-knit group. Everyone’s willing to work for each other, be receptive to advice and help make sure everyone in the group becomes a better player. I think those things have really worked for us.

“Having the Games delayed by a year made it a bit harder. But we’re all just really proud to be at this point.”

Adding to the excitement of the Gliders’ first Olympics since 2012 is the announcement that 3×3 Wheelchair basketball will be making its debut at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

“We haven’t played an international game since late 2019 and, while we’ve had a few camps over the past year, it’s been up and down with COVID and having to quarantine,” Munro-Cook said. 

“It’s been tricky but we’ve all been working really hard individually and it’s paying off right now.”

Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said she was thrilled the Gliders were headed back at the Games.

“The Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team belongs at the Paralympics,” McLoughlin said. 

“Three silver medals, a bronze and two fourth-placings since 1992 is a consistently strong record that I know this Team will be so keen to add to.

“I’m so pleased with the way the entire Gliders program bounced back, led well by Basketball Australia, and I think this is going to be a very special Paralympic campaign for this Team.”

Australian Women’s Paralympics Wheelchair Basketball Team

Name
Natalie Alexander
Shelley Cronau
Jessica Cronje
Hannah Dodd
Mary Friday
Isabel Martin
Bree Mellberg
Amber Merritt
Georgia Munro-Cook
Taishar Ovens
Ella Sabljak
Sarah Vinci

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