Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the home of disability sport and the birthplace of the Paralympic Games recently played host to a full programme of international competition at its facility on Guttmann Road in Aylesbury.
A week long Finnish Wheelchair Rugby Training Camp was concluded with a scintillating match against their GB counterparts and The 4 Nations Parabadminton Series 2011 English Championships entertained crowds.
On the Badminton courts a weekend of top-quality and exhilarating competition came to a thrilling conclusion after a full weekend of badminton was played and it was the English players who stole the show, winning 23 out of the 25 Gold medals available and only missing out when Scotland’s Connor McFarlane took the Men’s Standing Half-Court Singles over William Smith (Nld) and Niall McVeigh (Ireland) overcame Andrew Martin (Kent) after a three game battle in the final of the Dwarf Men’s Singles.
Home advantage was evident in the Men’s Wheelchair singles, as both the Class 1&2 and Class 3 Gold medals were taken by members of Phoenix BC, based at Stoke Mandeville. Martin Rooke (Bucks) defended the Class 3 title he won at the Scottish Championships in February, triumphing 21-17, 21-13 over Meva Singh Dhesi (Mdx). Denny Vettom looked confident as he took the Class 1&2 Singles Gold for the first time, overcoming Owen Kilburn in straight games 21-16, 25-23. Vettom couldn’t quite secure another Gold as he and Phoenix club-mate Phillip Tew (Bucks) went down to Rowan Crossman and David Follett (Devon) 23-21, 21-12 in the final of the Wheelchair Combined Men’s Doubles.
Amongst the impressed on-lookers over the weekend were England internationals Sarah Walker and Andy Ellis, who as well as awarding medals and signing autographs were also called into action in the umpire’s chair!
Badminton England Disability Manager Tom Webster was delighted with the weekend’s events and said: “The Championships was a fitting conclusion to the domestic Parabadminton season, at a stunning venue for disability sport. The standard of play was exceptional and I’m sure everyone in attendance was impressed with the skill, athleticism and camaraderie on show. The atmosphere of the 4 Nations really is unparalleled. We had a record entry in the physical disability categories and it’s great to see so many new players on show. The game continues to grow, particularly through the hard work of coaches, players and the Inclusive Clubs to grow Parabadminton. The players’ focus will now turn to Dortmund and the German International Parabadminton Open in June, and I’m sure they will all perform with distinction.”
While in other areas of the centre Finnish Wheelchair Rugby team concluded its week long training camp with a match against the GB Wheelchair Rugby team in front of a crowd of more than 100 fans. It was an exciting and very close match and Finland narrowly lost 49 to 52.
Prior to the Wheelchair rugby match the team made use of the first class, specialised training facilities at the centre and spent at least six hours each day within the centre making use of the gym to build on the team’s fitness and the sports halls to work on technique and team play. The players and staff from Finland were pleased with the sporting facilities as well as the purpose built accommodation all within the same location.
Tommi Ojanen, Head Coach of Team Finland Wheelchair Rugby said: "My players and staff enjoyed a great training week with Team GB at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. During this week we trained and played hard in the start of preparation to European Championships 2011 and qualification to London Paralympic Games 2012. The closeness of accommodation and sport facilities made it easy to have an effective training week."
Ian Seabrook, Business Development Manager at Stoke Mandeville Stadium said: “It was great to welcome the teams and players to our centre for the training camps and the Parabadminton Championships. This weekend demonstrated just how perfect Stoke Mandeville Stadium is at hosting events, tournaments and training camps for the benefit of the athletes but also at creating a sense of community amongst disabled and able bodied people. There was a great atmosphere with members of the community cheering on our Paralympic hopefuls and International teams.”