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26 August 2015

Anna Pasanen & Team Finland hope to reach Rio from home soil

Anna Pasanen started playing rugby in 2005 and has been on the Finnish National team since 2007

None of the European teams have secured a spot at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro yet, but the upcoming IWRF 2015 Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in Pajulahti, Finland on 13–20 September will change that.


With eight teams participating and two places to Rio at stake, the situation before the Games in Pajulahti couldn’t be more exciting.


Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark are the biggest favorites to reach the medals and those two tickets to Rio, but home team Finland won’t be easy to beat in front of their home crowd.


– If everything goes as planned, I think it’s possible we’ll be in the final, says Anna Pasanen of Team Finland.


Pasanen started wheelchair rugby almost ten years ago, in December 2005.


– I used to practice horse trials before my disability and that is also known as quite reckless sport. So when I first saw wheelchair rugby in rehabilitation center, my first thought was, wow, that is one nice looking sport, Pasanen tells.


For the first time Finland hosted the Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in 2007 in Espoo. Pasanen was already in the team although not as a player, but as a team leader.


– I got to be a part of the team during the whole tournament which was a good school for me. And of course it gave me hunger to want to be playing for the national team one day, says Pasanen who has since been a permanent part of the Finnish team in many international events.


The Paralympic Games is the one event that Pasanen – and none of the other Finnish players for that matter – have never participated in. Wheelchair Rugby has been an official Paralympic sport since the 2000 Sydney Games, but Finland have yet to reach the Paralympics in a sport mastered by countries outside Europe such as United States, Canada and Australia.


There are a few special features in wheelchair rugby compared to other disability team sports. For instance, wheelchair rugby is the only disability team sport where full contacts is allowed, even compulsory in order to succeed. It is also the only Paralympic ball sport played in mixed teams.


Besides Anna Pasanen, there will be three other female players competing in the Pajulahti European Championship: German Britta Kripke, British Coral Batey and Irish Ciara Staunton.


In international wheelchair rugby the total player classification points allowed on the court among the four players is 8 points. Female players get a half-point “discount”, so as Anna Pasanen’s classification is 0.5, her actual points on the court are 0.0.


– In my opinion that half-point discount makes it possible for female players get involved in the sport. In most of the cases female body strength is lower than male’s, so with that half point it is possible for female players to be an important part of the team even in the biggest international events, Pasanen says.


Tournament website: www.wrec2015.fi/en


Follow the European Championship in Facebook: www.facebook.com/FinnishWheelchairRugby


Follow the European Championship in Twitter: www.twitter.com/wrec2015