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Programs encouraging more women, of all abilities, to play wheelchair sports


When wheelchair basketballer Jess Cronje played her first game for a national mixed team, one of her opponents warned if she got in his way again and stopped him from scoring, he was going to squash her like a bug.

Instead of taking her off the court, her coach decided to give the then 16-year-old the job of guarding the much bigger man.

“She said something to him, then scooted off somewhere and the look on his face, that whole quarter he was just out of sorts, he was really off his game,” recalled Cronje’s mum, Kris Riley.

After asking her daughter what she had told him, Cronje replied “I just went up to him and went ‘buzz buzz’.”

The 22-year-old, who’s part of the Australian Gliders national squad, admits she was daunted when she first had to line up against grown men.

Now she thrives on it.

“When you compete against them, it makes you feel really good and like ‘yes, I can do this’.”

But not all young girls, or even women, have that same confidence to stand up to smack talk, and back it up.

Why do so many girls drop out of sport?

A woman in a wheelchair on a basketball court smiles .
Many women worry about being judged on how they look while playing sport and agonise over whether they’re good enough.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

It’s estimated nearly 50 per cent of girls stop playing sport by the time they’re 17, and women have lower rates of participation in sport and physical activity than men.

Many worry about being judged on how they look while playing or exercising.

Some wonder whether they’re good enough, and others, particularly mothers, don’t want to be questioned over their priorities (aka mum guilt).

It can be even harder for those who want to participate in wheelchair sports, because they’re largely unisex at the junior and recreational/sub-elite levels.

And playing with and against boys and men brings a whole other set of issues.

“The men have this idea that they can only pass the ball to themselves, to the other men in the team,” said wheelchair basketballer Patricia Luff.

A woman in a wheelchair holds an Aussie Rules football.
Patricia Luff started playing wheelchair sports to keep up with her sons and now she plays wheelchair basketball and Aussie rules.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

Luff started playing 15 years ago for the sake of her kids.

The 54-year-old and her two sons are all wheelchair users, and she wanted them to experience being part of a team.

But being involved in sport has been just as beneficial for her.

And now that she plays for the Sydney Uni Flames in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League, she knows the difference female-only teams can make.

“You get to have a chance at doing everything, with the women.

“They force you and tell you to dribble the ball down the court, even though you say ‘I don’t want to’. But they get you to and you realise you can do it.”

Tracey Carruthers was a keen netballer when she was young, but at 17 her knees deteriorated significantly, and she decided to try wheelchair basketball.

A woman in a wheelchair smiles for the camera.
Tracey Carruthers decided to try wheelchair basketball after her knees deteriorated.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

While she’s a self-admitted extrovert, she believes many girls and women are lost to wheelchair sport because they have to play in unisex teams.

“Men’s basketball is very different and I’m still a little bit intimidated playing against the men. They’re taller, they’re bigger, they push harder, they get up on one wheel, something I’m hopeless at doing,” the 42-year-old said.

“Some of the girls can absolutely match it, but not me and not at the level that I’m at.

What can be done to encourage more women to play?

Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT has started running a series of “HER SPORTS” events, to give women and girls a chance to try different sports in a welcoming environment.

A group of women sit in wheelchairs and hold Aussie rules footballs.
A series of events is underway to give women and girls a chance to try different sports.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

“There are too many girls and women out there in New South Wales and the ACT who are missing out on the opportunity that sport provides.

“And it’s not just the physical aspect, it’s about belonging somewhere, it’s about the mental health benefits and the social benefits of participating.”

Wheelchair Aussie rules is a new offering for the organisation, and unlike most para-sports, there aren’t classification requirements.

That means anyone, of any ability can join in.

“What we know from girls is often they’ll want to bring other people along with them when they try something new,” Garnett added.

“So if you have the opportunity to bring your able-bodied girlfriends or mum or sisters or whomever, then that’s a reason why we think that girls will be particularly attracted to wheelchair Aussie rules.”

Why wheelchair Aussie rules is more accessible to women of all abilities

The sport’s rise in popularity has taken on extra significance for Carruthers, who’s a mad GWS Giants fan.

Even though she needs a double knee replacement, and has a genetic condition which prevents her from participating in able-bodied sport, recent changes to wheelchair basketball classification rules means she’s no longer eligible for international competitions.

Wheelchair Aussie rules is played on a basketball court, and a handball is actually a kick, while a throw is a handball.

A woman handballs a football from a wheelchair while on a basketball court.
Jess Cronje has made a name for herself in wheelchair basketball, but has recently started to play wheelchair Aussie rules too.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

There are goals and behinds and a mark is the same.

Carruthers believes the nature of the sport means it’s accessible to more women than wheelchair basketball — where the hoop is kept at the same height as the able-bodied game.

“Basketball is a little bit discriminatory when you first start, it’s really hard to hit that ring when you start off. So given that you can score anywhere from the ground to the roof means that you’ve got a lot more capacity.”

While Cronje wants to represent Australia at next year’s 2021 Tokyo Paralympics in basketball, she’s also proven to be just as good with a Sherrin in hand.

And she hopes it will open doors for many more women to get active.

“In basketball, I’m not exceptionally tall like most people are. So I think in AFL it doesn’t matter about your size or what you can and can’t do, because there’s always something for you.”



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Dylan Alcott wins a second French Open quad wheelchair title, beating Andy Lapthorne 6-2, 6-2


Dylan Alcott has enhanced his reputation as one of the all-time greats of wheelchair tennis with an 11th quad singles grand slam triumph at the French Open at the expense of his old rival and doubles partner Andy Lapthorne.

And the man who has become one of Australia’s great sporting ambassadors and pioneers was thrilled he was able to achieve his 6-2, 6-2 victory on one of the sport’s great stages, Court Suzanne Lenglen at Roland Garros.

“Putting us on a high stage today was really cool. It really was. I was shocked. I didn’t know that was going to happen,” said the ever-effervescent Alcott, who continued his domination over his British friend Lapthorne to retain the crown a day after the pair lost as a team in the doubles final.

“To the organisers, thank you. I love the clay. I didn’t think I liked clay, to be honest. I hate getting dirty. I play well on it. I think I like it now!”

Alcott was recently instrumental in getting the US Open to make a U-turn on its decision to exclude the wheelchair tournament in New York, his angry comments about “disgusting discrimination” prompting a wave of support from some of the sport’s biggest names.

“Oh, mate, it’s cool,” said Alcott. “I can’t believe it. When we missed out on the US Open originally, I just wrote those tweets because I was really sad, to be honest. As someone with a disability, not to be included just because of our disability was tough.

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“I didn’t think anyone would listen. The next thing it’s on the third page of the New York Times, Andy Murray has called me on the phone. The support from the world of tennis has been amazing.

“I get to play on Rod Laver Arena back in Australia, 10,000 people there, a million people watching on TV, that kind of stuff. My match was live on Australian TV today, which is so cool.”

Alcott reckoned the news he would be playing on Lenglen really spurred him on to his best tennis.

“I’m bloody happy, to be honest. It’s awesome. It’s been obviously such a crazy year.

The triumph made handsome amends for Alcott’s shock defeat to Sam Schroder in the US Open final, which was his only defeat in a grand slam final and his only loss in his 19 matches this year, as he added this second French title to his six Australian Open crowns, two US Open victories and last year’s first Wimbledon championship.

“I stuffed up the US Open, lost in the final. I think winning today made the trip worthwhile, you know what I mean? I’m really proud of how I played. I had a really good time out there.”

The double Paralympic gold-medallist from Melbourne had only an early moment of concern in his 51-minute triumph, as he lost the opening two games to Lapthorne only to immediately strike back.

Once he had recovered the break and then grabbed another in a tough sixth game, the 29-year-old took firm control of the match to annex the set in 27 minutes.

Lapthorne finally broke a run of seven straight games lost in the second set, but after the pair had exchanged breaks, Alcott raced away with the last three games to win the 37th singles title of his glittering career.

What made Alcott happiest was putting his sport on the map again.

“The media, to the public, people want to watch because it’s entertaining sport. It means a lot to me, more so for not just us but the next generation of young people with a disability,” he said.



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Louise Sauvage still involved in wheelchair racing 20 years after her Sydney Olympics win


Three nights after Cathy Freeman’s memorable victory at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, another of Australia’s most remarkable champions lit up the capacity crowd again.

It was Louise Sauvage, in the women’s 800 metres wheelchair race.

Waking up feeling under the weather, writing in her diary that she felt immense pressure, Sauvage used the noise and beat of the crowd to push her wheels through hundreds of revolutions, racing twice around the Olympic track, to smoothly roll across the finish line for gold.

Three weeks later, like Freeman, she would light the cauldron, signalling the start of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games where she added another two gold medals and a silver medal to her already overflowing trophy cabinet.

Later in 2000, at the Oscars of sport, the Laureus Awards, Sauvage shared a stage with Tiger Woods and Serena Williams — as the world athletes of the year.

And where is she 20 years on? Still at Sydney’s Olympic Park.

As a NSW Institute of Sport coach, Sauvage is training other wheelchair athletes with dreams of their own.

“A lot of these guys weren’t even born,” she added, referring to a team of young boys and girls in her training squad.

This week, to coincide with the 20th anniversary Olympic and Paralympic celebrations a new “anthem” sung by Casey Donovan has been released by Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT.

Two wheelchair athletes sit talking together on the track.
Sarah Clifton-Bligh (R) is one of Australia’s young hopefuls trying to make it to the Tokyo Paralympics.(ABC News: Tracey Holmes)

The music video for How I Roll features several of the young female athletes coached by Sauvage.

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With funding from the NSW Office of Sport, it forms part of the Her Sport, Her Way strategy designed to get more girls and women active.

One of Sauvage’s charges is 16-year-old Sarah Clifton-Bligh, who has been training with the Olympic Park squad since she was in Year 6.

“I hope I can get to the Tokyo Paralympics next year.”

Also in the music video are 11-year-olds Coco Espie and Ava Edwards, who have been regulars at Homebush for around four years.

Although they also have dreams of becoming Paralympians, Coco’s dad James initially suggested they should go to the training mostly to roll around the track and have socialise.

“But there’s like 1,000 boys and two girls,” Ava said.

A young wheelchair athlete checks her racing chair next to a track.
Ava Edwards loves wheelchair racing — but she wishes there were more girls to compete against.(ABC News: Tracey Holmes)

They are both hoping the release of the How I Roll video will encourage others to join them at the Saturday morning sessions.

Eliza Ault-Connell, a two-time Paralympian, said it was important every age group had their own role models to look up to.

Wheelchair Sports runs programs from grass roots to elite, with all ages and abilities catered for.

“Our female athletes are incredible, and everyone deserves the chance to see them in action,” Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT chief executive Mick Garnett said.

“We know from experience that when people see the skills and determination our female athletes bring to their sport, they love them.

“We need to build the profiles of our role models to invite more girls and women with disabilities to roll with us.”

But it is not all about inspiration. Sauvage can be a hard taskmaster.

“You’ll have to ask them,” she said of her charges, before admitting she is “definitely tough”.

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Wheelchair Sports say proceeds from buying or streaming How I Roll will go to funding more opportunities for girls and women to get involved in wheelchair sport in what many describe as a life-changing experience.

Sauvage is evidence of that, with more than 30 gold medals from world championships, Paralympic and Olympic Games, multiple victories in the Boston, Berlin and Honolulu marathons, and world records from 100 metres to 5,000 metres.

She is also Australia’s only Paralympian afforded “legend status” at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

Twenty years after the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sauvage is more interested in the future champions of wheelchair and Paralympic sport than reflecting on her own achievements.

“It’s the most rewarding thing, being part of someone else’s journey,” she said.



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Dylan Alcott wins US Open quad wheelchair doubles title with Andy Lapthorne



Australia’s Dylan Alcott has added another major title to his collection after teaming up with Briton Andy Lapthorne to win the men’s quad wheelchair doubles final at the US Open.

Alcott and Lapthorne defended their doubles crown by beating American David Wagner and Sam Schroder of The Netherlands 3-6, 6-4, [10-8] in a tense encounter in New York.

It is the seventh major doubles title for Alcott, who sealed the victory with an ace.

His attention will now turn to his upcoming singles final against Schroder on Monday morning (AEST), as he looks to add a win to his victory at the Australian Open earlier this year.

Alcott has won 10 major singles titles and is pursuing a third US Open crown.

He lost to Lapthorne in the singles final last year, the defeat denying him a Grand Slam.

Alcott was prominent among the critics of US Open organisers back in June when they initially decided to cancel the wheelchair events as a way of reducing numbers at the tournament in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Just got announced that the US Open will go ahead WITHOUT wheelchair tennis … Players weren’t consulted,” Alcott posted on Twitter after the initial announcement was made.

“I thought I did enough to qualify — 2x champion, number 1 in the world. But unfortunately I missed the only thing that mattered, being able to walk. Disgusting discrimination.”

The US Tennis Association (USTA) reversed its decision following “multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation” in June.

USTA acknowledged it should have consulted wheelchair athletes before originally deciding to cancel their competition in New York.



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New Paralympic wheelchair basketball eligibility rules have ruined dreams, and raised significant questions


In a parallel universe, disability athletes around the world would currently be preparing to make their bow at the Paralympic Games.

Athletes who, for the past four years of qualification, training and sacrifice, had geared themselves up for a tilt at a gold medal in Tokyo.

But while some have had to put their dreams on ice, other have had theirs shattered completely.

Annabelle Lindsay is one of two Australian Gliders who recently had their hopes of competing dashed by a change in the classification rules for wheelchair athletes set to compete at the Games, being told they were now ineligible just weeks before the proposed start of the Games, had they taken place this year.

It’s the same change that saw British star George Bates claim he would need to amputate his leg in order to compete, after his complex regional pain syndrome was deemed an ineligible disability.

For Lindsay, the decision means losing the chance to lead the team that she helped qualify in Tokyo. And losing her love of the sport.

Inclusive no more

Wheelchair basketball has long been a pioneer for ensuring sport is available to all, allowing for players of mixed levels of disabilities — and even those without a disability at a domestic level in Australia — to compete alongside one another.

Annabelle Lindsay holds a basketball above her head while sitting in a wheelchair.
Annabelle Lindsay has been a member of the Gliders since 2016.(Supplied: Annabelle Lindsay)

The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), said in a statement that its classification philosophy, “has always been to make the sport as inclusive as possible and give all those with eligible impairments and disabilities a chance to play the game”.

In wheelchair basketball, competitors are given a score — 1.0 for athletes with the highest level of impairment through to 4.5, for those like Lindsay, who have low levels of impairment — with teams only permitted a maximum number of 14 points-worth of player on the court at any one time.

That means a team can be filled with athletes who have a mid-range score, or have one athlete with a low level of impairment play with athletes with a high level of impairment.

“It’s so that everyone can play,” the 22-year-old Lindsay said.

However, that all changed when the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ruled that some athletes with lower levels of impairments would be excluded from competing at the Paralympic Games.

The IPC Code and that used by the IWBF does not align. IPC president Andrew Parsons saying in January that despite wheelchair basketball being “one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games … this does not mean that the IWBF is above the rules”.

Athlete classification is integral to all Paralympic sport and the failure of any sport to comply is of critical concern to us because it could threaten the integrity of competition,” Parsons said.

The sport was ordered to make a change or risk being kicked out of the Paralympics — an outcome almost unthinkable for a sport that is not only one of the most popular events at the Games, but a founding member at the first official Games in Rome in 1960.

“Originally the word was that this was just a power play, politics,” Lindsay said.

“But as the months went on, we realised what a big deal it was and that athletes would lose their careers because of this.”

‘Once you are in the chair, we are literally all at the same level’

Lindsay was a promising able-bodied basketball player who played at a semi-professional level and had been awarded a scholarship at Minot State University in North Dakota before suffering a career-ending knee injury.

Despite surgery, that injury has severely impaired Lindsay throughout her life, with her knee dislocating with the smallest provocation, barring her from participating in the vast majority of able-bodied sports.

Annabelle Lindsay leans to one side of her chair and shoots towards a basketball hoop
Annabelle Lindsay has taken well to wheelchair basketball.(Supplied: Annabelle Lindsay)

“People might see me walking and they’ll say, ‘oh, there’s nothing wrong with her’ but they don’t see my knee dislocating whenever I try to bend down, even the smallest amount.

“I can’t walk up stairs. I can’t go up ramps, I physically have no way to run or jump. My knee dislocates at any time.

Lindsay was given the chance to continue playing her sport through wheelchair basketball and excelled.

“What’s really cool about wheelchair basketball is once you are in the chair, we are literally all at the same level,” Lindsay explains.

“It doesn’t matter if I can walk because I can’t use my legs. I’m sitting down. The system in wheelchair basketball is set up so that it is inclusive.”

‘Being disabled is not a one-size-fits-all thing’

One of the four Paralympic Values — alongside Courage, Determination and Inspiration — is Equality.

Equality: Through sport, Para athletes celebrate diversity and show that difference is a strength. As pioneers for inclusion, they challenge stereotypes, transform attitudes and break down social barriers and discrimination towards persons with disabilities.

However, the IPC’s ruling appears to show that being pioneers for inclusion only goes so far.

This is a topic that will doubtless cause division and controversy.

Is there a difference, for example, between people in wheelchairs playing basketball and people playing basketball in wheelchairs?

Lindsay says there is not, and that disability is not an overarching label.

However, the question of what it means to be a disabled athlete has now been raised, and whether you have to be the right kind of disabled.

“Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes,” Lindsay said.

“Just because you don’t always use a wheelchair that doesn’t mean you don’t have a disability.

“Being disabled is not a one-size-fits-all thing.”

‘How can we exclude people like that?’

Lindsay said the ruling has excluded her from being able to participate in sport.

“There is nothing I can do. If I lift weights, it would have to be sitting down. I can’t even go for long walks. I can only play adaptive sports — and not even all adaptive sports. Rowing would be too painful, my knee would just dislocate.

“It would have to be wheelchair-specific sports. But now they’ve even said, ‘sorry, you’re not disabled enough to play in the Paralympics’ but I’m definitely not able-enough to play able-bodied sports, so what do they expect me to do?

“Being able to play sport should just be a fundamental right that people have.

“It has such enormous physical and mental health benefits, and now there’s a huge amount of people that can’t get that because we don’t fit in a distinct category.”

Lindsay said this was not just a problem that has emerged in wheelchair basketball, with athletes across the Paralympic sporting spectrum being impacted.

“I think what’s made me so passionate about it was, obviously this sucks for me, but I would have had over 50, 60 messages from parents and kids who are saying ‘hey, what’s your disability, it’s just I’ve been told that I’m not disabled enough to play wheelchair tennis’, or ‘I’m worried that I’m not going to be able to go to the Paralympics for this,’ or ‘I’ve been told that even though I use a wheelchair full time, I can’t compete in wheelchair track’.

“Someone sent me a message that their brother was too disabled for one category but not disabled enough for another so they couldn’t compete — they didn’t even fit in the system.

“Kids with a disability have to go through a lot as it is.”

Opened up a can of worms

Basketball Australia has said both Lindsay and her teammate Teisha Shadwell will both be permitted to continue playing in the domestic competition, but will not take the court in Tokyo — if the delayed Paralympics happen at scheduled.

Lindsay, one of the team’s top scorers in qualification, said that fact has its own issues from a sporting integrity point of view.

Annabelle Lindsay reaches for a basketball ball while sitting in a wheelchair
Annabelle Lindsay has scored in all the Gliders’s Paralympic qualifying matches.(Supplied: Annabelle Lindsay)

“I started and scored in every single game that qualified us for the Paralympics,” Lindsay said.

“What does this mean for the teams that didn’t qualify for the Paralympics because they played against teams that had ineligible athletes? Do they get another opportunity to qualify against the teams with only eligible athletes?”

The ruling does not just have sporting implications though. It means that Lindsay will not be able to take up her latest scholarship with the University of Texas at Arlington — the first ever awarded to an overseas wheelchair basketball player — beyond a one-year grace period.

The other issue is funding. By being excluded from competing at Paralympic level, Lindsay worries some ineligible people will no longer be able to apply for funding to continue playing their sport.

With basketball-specific chairs coming in at $4,000, that’s an expensive call for those families.

A young woman watches a basketball spin on her index finger
Annabelle Lindsay says she lost her passion for sport after being excluded from competing.(Supplied: Mark Moore)

“It’s really upsetting that so many people — not just me — are losing these opportunities to compete because of this decision.

Sporting bodies have already proven themselves to be woefully inept at dealing with athletes that do not fit neatly into established categories, as the ongoing discussion over the eligibility of Caster Semenya has shown.

Throw into the mix the myriad of symptoms facing people with disabilities and categorising them is bound to cause confusion, at best.

Despite having the support of the wheelchair basketball community as a whole, being excluded has severely dented Lindsay’s love for the sport.

“What I love most about, what I used to love most about wheelchair basketball was how inclusive it was,” Lindsay said. “I think that made it the best sport in the world.

“And that’s been ruined now.”



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Wheelchair basketball player contemplating leg amputation to continue international career


A British wheelchair basketball star says he may have to consider amputating his leg to continue playing at international level.

George Bates, who is a World and European champion with Great Britain, was told his disability does not fit into new criteria introduced by the sport’s governing body at the start of this year.

Bates said he has complex regional pain syndrome, which has left him in “constant pain every day for the last 15 years” after suffering a football injury when he was 11 years old.

The 26-year-old said he has been deemed to be “‘the wrong kind’ of disabled”.

Wheelchair Basketball’s governing body, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), has been under pressure to adapt its classification rules to bring it in line with International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules.

Great Britain takes on Canada in Invictus Games wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball is a popular event at a variety of competitions, including the Invictus Games.(Getty Images/Invictus Games 2018)

The IWBF had been asked to make changes to the classification rules prior to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games or risk being taken off the program of events.

The IWBF classifies some disabilities differently to the IPC and was asked to reassess all athletes in the 4.0 to 4.5 category, those athletes with the lowest impairment.

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It was claimed by the IPC that some athletes were competing with disabilities that are not covered by the IPC code.

The IPC classification code includes health conditions that “primarily cause pain” as one of its “non-eligible impairments”, specifying complex regional pain syndrome.

Bates was classified as a 4.5 player, meaning he had the lowest level of impairment permitted under IWBF rules and, after being reclassified, was deemed ineligible.

“It is ironic that the IPC — who attempt to base their brand around equality and inclusivity — are deliberately discriminating against athletes who don’t meet their narrowminded view of what it actually means to be disabled,” Bates said in a statement.

“This injury resulted in serious and prolonged mental health issues and left me in a position where I was contemplating if I wanted to carry on with this life.

“At this point … I was given the option to amputate my leg, an issue that I assumed would benefit me in later life.

“Due to the decision of the IPC today I may be forced to revisit this heartbreaking option.”

Bates added that he would be taking legal action.

The IWBF said in a statement that: “IWBF’s classification philosophy has always been to make the sport as inclusive as possible and give all those with eligible impairments and disabilities a chance to play the game of basketball”.

IWBF president Ulf Mehrens said the decision to change the classification structure was met “with much regret and sadness”, adding that it believed it had a “strong robust classification system which has acted as a role model for other sports”.

Germany's Dirk Passiwan is chased by Iran's Zakaria Hesamy Zadeh and Hakim Mansouri
Wheelchair basketball is played all around the world.(Claro Cortes IV, file photo: Reuters)

“Despite our disappointment, IWBF acknowledges the current action by the IPC and I kindly request all athletes, teams and member nations for their cooperation and understanding,” Mehrens said.

“We hope to have the collaboration and support from all our national federations as we do everything possible to serve our wheelchair basketball community and make sure wheelchair basketball secures it place in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and future Paralympic Games.”

The para-sport classification system aims to group athletes with similar impairments into categories.

The Australian Paralympic website says this is to, “ensure the type and severity of an athlete’s impairment has a minimal impact on the outcome of a race, event or match”.

Athletes wishing to compete undergo a sport-specific classification assessment by someone certified by Paralympics Australia.

The issue of classifications has been controversial, with some athletes raising questions over some athletes being classified incorrectly deliberately to boost medal chances.

Last year, Paralympics Australia introduced a mandatory online course for athletes to help understand the importance of a transparent classification process.

Some athletes in the Australian Rollers and Gliders teams are expected to be impacted by the classification changes.

Basketball Australia and Paralympics Australia have been contacted for comment.



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Wheelchair tennis back on at US Open after initial decision criticised by players including Dylan Alcott


This year’s US Open tennis tournament will include wheelchair competition after all, following a change in plans by the US Tennis Association due to complaints over their initial decision to drop the event.

The USTA announced that wheelchair tennis will be played at Flushing Meadows from September 10-13, the last four days of the grand slam tournament.

The switch came after “multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week,” the USTA said in a news release.

Now there will be men’s and women’s singles and doubles and quad singles doubles at Flushing Meadows.

Wheelchair athletes can access the tournament site from September 7.

The group that oversees tennis in the United States acknowledged on Friday it should have consulted wheelchair athletes before originally deciding to cancel their competition in New York.

That came two days after the USTA revealed its operating plans for holding the US Open amid the coronavirus pandemic, including reductions to various competitions to limit the number of people onsite for better social distancing.

The initial setup dropped wheelchair, junior and mixed doubles competitions altogether, along with singles qualifying, while the fields for women’s and men’s doubles were halved to 32 teams apiece.

Australian wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott had led the charge to change the USTA’s mind, openly expressing his frustration on social media.

“Just got announced that the US Open will go ahead WITHOUT wheelchair tennis… Players weren’t consulted,” he posted last week after the announcement.

The 29-year-old has 16 grand slam titles, including the quad singles event at six Australian Opens, once at the French Open and once at Wimbledon.

Alcott will now be able to attempt to win a second US Open quad singles title.

Some questions have been raised about the future of this year’s overall tournament, following Novak Djokovic’s exhibition series, the Adria Cup, which has resulted in the men’s world number one and three other players testing positive to COVID-19.

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Dylan Alcott accuses US Open organisers of discrimination after wheelchair tennis is dropped for the 2020 event


High-profile Paralympian and wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott has slated officials for taking his competitions off the schedule for this year’s US Open tournament.

The tournament, which will be played from August 31 to September 13, will go ahead under restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Tennis Association took the decision to hold no mixed doubles, juniors or wheelchair competitions at the US Open.

Alcott, who has dominated wheelchair tennis in recent years, shared his frustration at the decision on Twitter.

“Just got announced that the US Open will go ahead WITHOUT wheelchair tennis… Players weren’t consulted,” he posted.

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Alcott then tweeted he was fitter and healthier than nearly everyone reading his tweets.

“Please do not tell me I am a ‘greater risk’ because I am disabled,” he wrote.

“I am disabled yes but that does not make me SICK.”

Alcott went on to post that while there were far more important issues in the world, the choice on whether to compete should have been up to him.

“It is blatant discrimination for able-bodied people to decide on my behalf what I do with my LIFE AND CAREER just because I am disabled. Not good enough.”

The 29-year-old has 16 grand slam titles, winning the quad singles event at six Australian Opens, two US Opens, once at the French Open and once at Wimbledon.

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Alcott has six doubles titles, including three Australian Opens.

He also won two gold medals at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016.

His success came after a career in wheelchair basketball, where he played with Australia’s Gliders at two Paralympic Games, winning gold in Beijing in 2008 and silver in London four years later.

Alcott has been outspoken as a disability advocate, criticising the Federal Government last year for its underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

He established the Dylan Alcott Foundation, “with the core purpose of helping young Australians with disabilities gain self-esteem and respect through sport and study” and was appointed Australia’s patron for International Day of People with Disability.

View of a packed tennis grandstand with a big American flag spread out over the tennis court below.
The US Open won’t have crowds at Flushing Meadows this year — or mixed doubles, junior and wheelchair tennis events.(Reuters/Action Images: Jason O’Brien)

The USTA confirmed earlier this week the tournament would go ahead at the famous Flushing Meadows venue as planned, but with a series of restrictions.

“First and foremost, our decision-making has been guided by the health and wellbeing of all who will take part in the 2020 US Open,” USTA president Patrick Galbraith said in a statement.

“After educating ourselves through consultations with experts, and following near round-the-clock planning for three months, we are confident that we have a plan that is safe, viable and the right thing to do for our sport.”

All events were to be modified “in light of the global pandemic”, with the stated goal of limiting the number of individuals on site at Flushing Meadows at one time.

This included banning fans, limiting players’ entourages, and broadcasters, and cutting back on the number of events.



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