First Asian Wheelchair Rugby Tournament a Great Success
History was made this past week when Korea Wheelchair Rugby Association (KWRA) hosted the First Asian Wheelchair Rugby Tournament at the Gumi Community Rehabilitation Center on 7-10 November in Gumi, Korea.
New teams from India, Malaysia and Thailand traveled to Korea to attended the week-long event, which included training sessions for the athletes as well as referee clinics for those wanting to become officials in the sport. Korea entered a team in the tournament as well.
While India and Malaysia have been practicing the sport on the national level for a few years, this was the first competition played outside of their countries for both teams. Thailand had formed their team just weeks before this tournament began so they could take part, and learned from every game they played or watched.
Riya Gupa (1.0) from India said this was the best experience of her life, and that she and her teammates are now more determined than ever to help make wheelchair rugby available to people with a disability throughout India. While India brought four athletes to play in this tournament, one was not able to play due to illness so Korea offered two of their players to the team so they could participate.
Throughout the week the Korean players and coaches graciously helped all of the new countries learn basic game and chair skills, and have vowed to continue mentoring India, Malaysia and Thailand going forward. This spirit was demonstrated daily during shared meals and late night meetings at the hotel long after the games had ended, and the new athletes, coaches and administrators all learned from the experience.
KWRA Vice President, Se-Wan Yoon stated “This tournament is just the first step in helping to introduce Wheelchair Rugby to Asian countries, and Korea is prepared to continue these efforts for many years to come.”
IWRF President, John Bishop was in attendance for several days and applauded Mr. Yoon’s comments. “The IWRF is committed to supporting the growth of our sport throughout Asia, and will do everything we possibly can to help assure that every country in the region who wants to play the game has a pathway to join the global Wheelchair Rugby Family.”
After four days of competition and camaraderie, it was Korea who had won the First Asian Wheelchair Rugby Tournament. But in the end it was Malaysia (#2), Thailand (#3) and India (#4) who had gained the most by participating, as well as the sport itself.
The success of this event has already inspired all countries to work together to improve their games. And in December, Thailand will host India and Malaysia for a multi-day combined training camp where all of the teams will continue to learn the sport and become better as a group.
Based on the spirit and determination they demonstrated in Korea, we can expect to see great improvements from all of teams in the near future.
Congratulations are extended to all of the teams who were in Gumi for this historical tournament, and heartfelt thanks are given to Korean Wheelchair Rugby Association and all of the dedicated staff and volunteers who made this tournament such a great success!
What’s next for Wheelchair Rugby in Asia?
On 18-24 October, Korea will host the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games, which is a multi-sport event held every four-years. Next year’s Games will include Wheelchair Rugby for the first time, and will present a unique opportunity for 4,500 athletes with a disability (from 42 Asian countries) to see the sport played live.
KWRA is taking the lead to make sure that wheelchair rugby has great success during the Games, and National teams from Japan, India, Malaysia, Thailand and host nation Korea have already committed to attend. It is hoped that Nepal or China will participate in the Games as well, which would allow for a good competition schedule.
Check out the Photo Gallery from the First Asian Wheelchair Rugby Tournament HERE.