Basketball on wheels heads to Incheon

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Basketball on wheels heads to Incheon

The 2014 Incheon World Wheelchair Basketball Championship kicks off tomorrow at the western port city of Incheon, which will also host the Asian Games in September.

The event runs through July 14 and is sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and several government organizations, including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. About 500 athletes and staff from 15 nations - including the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, the United States, Sweden, Japan and Australia - will compete for the trophy. The opening ceremony for the event, which is being held for the sixth time since it was established in 1994, will be held at the Samsan World Gymnasium.

“I strongly recommend people come to watch the games,” said Kim Jang-sil, chairman of the organizing committee. “Wheelchair basketball is a fun sport to watch that looks like ice hockey and basketball combined.”

Kim said he was drawn to wheelchair basketball and became the chief of the Korea Wheelchair Basketball Federation in July 2012.

“I was surprised by the disabled athletes’ passion,” Kim recalled. “They never gave up, even though they fell on the floor out of their wheelchairs. When I met the players, I was able to see some great confidence that only comes from people who have overcome disabilities.

“Bang Yeol, the chief of the Korea Basketball League, was also surprised by the athletes’ abilities. He said it would be very hard to make 3- to 4-meter shots from a wheelchair for professional ball players. But the players can dribble the ball and even complete 3-pointers. When watching, we can feel how much effort they put into it.”

Kim said Korea should establish more teams since there is only one. By comparison, Japan has more than 100 wheelchair basketball teams.

“We always talk about encouraging disabled people, but we haven’t done many things for them. I expect the championship in Incheon will help establish more wheelchair basketball teams in the future so that their players and coaches can play overseas someday,” Kim said.

The Korean wheelchair basketball team is currently ranked 11th in the world and Kim Dong-hyun, 27, a national team member, plays in the Italian professional league.

Kim said he hoped many audience members would turn out to watch the games.

“Wheelchair basketball is the flower of the Paralympics, meaning that it is one of the most popular sports. Since the world’s best wheelchair basketball players will compete, I ask people to come and enjoy this event.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO AND LEE HAE-JUN [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]



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