Paris 2024: the Blues of wheelchair basketball have no room for error in Antibes if they want to participate in the Olympic Games

What does qualifying for the Paralympic Games mean? In the case of the French men’s wheelchair basketball team, four days of competition to negotiate well against the big world and European teams. From this Friday until Monday April 15, the TQP, or “Paralympic qualifying tournament”, pits eight nations against each other who have one and only goal: to obtain their ticket to Paris.

The Azur Arena in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes) is the theater in which the French hopes of being able to shine at home this summer will come true – or be shattered. Because although France is the host country for this 2024 edition, the ticket for the Games was not automatically granted to the national team, unlike other disciplines.

“When we learned of this non-qualification in 2022, it was a difficult moment”, confesses Sofyane Mehiaoui, playmaker of this French team. Even more so when we talk about the most practiced para sport in competition in France. The women’s team will also have to go through a TQP in Japan, in Osaka, from April 17 to 20.

The initiative of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to go from 12 teams in Tokyo in 2021 to eight in Paris required an overhaul of the terms of access to the Games. In fact, the level of the Paralympic qualifying tournament will only be higher. “The third world nation is present (Iran) in Antibes, the third European nation (the Netherlands) too, it is anything but a cheap competitionspecifies Stéphane Binot, responsible for the development of wheelchair basketball and performance advisor at the French Handisport Federation (FFH). These are mini-Games for us, hoping to advance to the real tournament.”

The objective is even higher for the Blues as they aim to return to the Paralympic Games after 20 years (!) of absence, i.e. Athens in 2004. “We know we have pressure, and we’ve had it for several years”specifies Sofyane Mehiaoui. “We did things in order: in 2021, we won our ticket for the 2022 Worlds (defeat in the round of 16), even though we had not played in them for 10 years. This pressure stimulates us, and today I think we have the most complete team, because each player can make the difference and is not afraid to take shots.”

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  • Source of information and images “svoboda

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