That out of the way, at the 2014 men’s IWBF World Championships, I was a bit surprised that the three last undefeated teams were Australia, Spain and Great Britain. I probably shouldn’t have been. Great Britain’s team isn’t bad. They won a bronze in 2008. They had additional experience in London, even if they didn’t perform well at all. Some of their internationals do play abroad.
Still, they did perform rather poorly in London. They have only one player I can name when thinking about the team and great players. I can name more Spaniards, Americans, Australians and Turks. Added to that, they do not appear to have a strong club system. When I think of great wheelchair playing countries in terms of domestic competitions, I think of the United States, Australia, Spain, Italy and Turkey. Germany is also in there in my mind, but more for the women’s side than the men’s.
So yeah, I was completely surprised by Team GB going so deep into the competition undefeated, and then surprised that they went out in the quarter-finals to Turkey. Yeah, Turkey has a strong domestic club scene, but they finished seventh in London and got crushed by the United States and Germany in this tournament, and they lost a relatively close one to Australia. They narrowly defeated Italy. For a team to go undefeated then to lose to a team that lost three games and barely won a game? Surprising. I thought they might have had the steam to at least make it to the semi-finals.
Though to be fair, they played easy teams in Argentina, Mexico and South Korea in group play, and then met more relatively easy teams in the second round of group play with Iran and Japan. Spain is not a bad team, and Team GB defeated them by 16 points. Spanish players do have an advantage in my opinion over Team GB players in that their domestic competition puts them up against a number of international from other countries that are good players. They also have national team players consistently playing well in the Euroleague and doing well. It should have seemed like an opportunity for Team GB to step up against Spain and take that elevated play into their game against Turkey.
It says a lot that unless you’re consistently playing against the best in the world, when push comes to shove, you may not have what it takes to win.