Wheelchair basketball team takes sixth place

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Wheelchair basketball team takes sixth place

Korea finished the 2014 Incheon World Wheelchair Basketball Championship in the western port city of Incheon in sixth place out of 15 participating nations after losing 57-63 in the fifth-place decision match against Italy at the Samsan World Gymnasium on Sunday.

But it was Korea’s best record in a wheelchair basketball tournament since the Korea Wheelchair Basketball Federation was established in 1997.

The event, sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and government organizations, including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, kicked off on July 5 and ended yesterday with the participation of about 500 athletes and staff from countries including the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, the United States, Sweden, Japan and Australia. It was the sixth championship tournament since the first event was held in 1994.

Korea’s loss in the game to decide fifth place was due to a big gap in skills between starting members and substitutes because there are not very many wheelchair basketball players in the country. The five best players had to stay on the floor for most of the previous games, which led to stamina problems late in the game against Italy.

Korea led 57-54 with three minutes and 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but at that point tired ace player Kim Dong-hyun was struggling in shooting and the Italians made baskets in and outside the 3-point line and took rebounds, preventing Korea from retaking the lead.

The Incheon event was Korea’s best wheelchair basketball record since the team first participated in the tournament in 1998 in Sydney. But if Korea wants to win a gold medal in the Incheon Asian Games or the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, more teams need to be developed since currently there is only one.

The Korean wheelchair basketball team was ranked 11th in the world before the championship started and Kim, 27, is the only member who plays in a foreign (Italian) professional league.

“It is hard to ask the five best players to play several full games, but we had no choice,” Korea’s Coach Han Sa-hyun said. “But one good thing is that our players must have learned many things from the event as they faced many strong teams from around the world. They now can prepare for upcoming events with more confidence.”

BY kwon sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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