The 2016 University Championships proved to be every bit the spectacle British Wheelchair Basketball had promised. After a weekend of exciting action, at University of Worcester Arena, it was hosts Worcester University who once again lifted the trophy.
When the dust had settled on the biggest Championships to date, we caught up with some of the athletes to reflect on the competition and its wider importance.
Worcester’s Kirsty Russell called for BUCS recognition after the success and size of this year’s tournament: “Being part of the successful [Worcester] university team this year and bringing back the trophy with a great bunch of people was an honour! Wheelchair basketball is such an inclusive sport for all, with an ever-growing number of teams entering the tournament each year: 16 teams this year shows that it is growing and the format is a great way to develop the sport. It’s a shame there is no BUCS league as I think it would encourage more universities… but lets hope after 3 successful years we can have a league.”
Competitors Andrew Riley and Emma Graham shared their thoughts on the high standard of play. Riley said: “It was a great weekend for athletes and spectators to be involved with the third university championships. I really enjoyed the competitiveness and rivalry between the teams bring on next year.“
Graham spoke with similarly high praise: “What a fantastic event to be apart of. Having volunteered last year and participated this year, it’s amazing to see how much the sport has developed in such a short space of time. Every team that took part showed much improvement over the duration of the tournament, which leaves so much potential for the sport as a whole in the coming months and years ahead.”
Kirsty Dea championed the inclusiveness of the championships: “I think that the event was successful because it encourages people of all disabilities, whether they have one or not to work together as a team getting rid of the boundaries placed between us in sport.
I think recognising the importance of wheelchair basketball within universities is good but it could be recognised more by the people around us. I think that the sport is inclusive which is good, as most sports aren’t, and if the sport was recognised more we could get more chances to showcase our skills: we’re like other clubs and it’s not a club only for disabled people. It would be great to have more than one tournament a year.
I think over recent years the sports has grown a lot.
I think having the sport as part of BUCS would be brilliant as it would give us a chance to compete against other universities and it would promote the sport further.”
Adam McMullen believes the event is changing the face of wheelchair basketball for the better: “Having been around wheelchair basketball my whole life it is brilliant to see how much the sport has grown over the last 20 years. The university championships has grown so fast, from the first year where there was 6 teams to 8 and now 12 this year, and it makes me excited for next year and many more years to come. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the best sports for universities to take part in because of its inclusive feel: able bodied people and disabled people can all come together and compete at such a high level of sport. It truly is a one of a kind sport.”
Finally, co-captain of the championship winning University of Worcester, and TUBPodcast’s very own, Nik Terrell summarised the occasion: “I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to witness the growth of UniChamps, from the first ever tournament in 2014 to the heavily supported event that occurred over the weekend. This year’s competition boasted more than triple the number of teams than in 2014 and highlighted the great strides that university wheelchair basketball has made, in such a brief amount of time. Not only has this been fantastic for the development of the sport’s social side, among the student community, but it has provided significant evidence in our ongoing campaign to become established in BUCS. Disability sport being recognised on an equal platform as running basketball is by no exaggeration too far overdue. I sincerely hope that the relentless efforts of BWB, the HEWBOs nationwide and the universities’ competitors are heard by BUCSs’ organisers. In regards to this I am optimistic that in the final run up to Rio 2016, and reflecting on the success of the London 2012 paralympic games, we will not be overlooked.”
Gold: University of Worcester 1
Silver: Scottish Universities
Bronze: University of East London
4th: University of Worcester 2
5th: University of Bath
6th: University of East Anglia
7th: Cardiff Met University
8th: University of Northampton
9th: Nottingham Trent University
10th: Sheffield Hallam University
11th: University of Nottingham
12th: Brunel University London
13th: Bangor University
14th: Northumbria University
15th: Durham University
16th: University of Wolverhampton
Source: Nik Terrell