REPORTING. Paris 2024: in Antibes, the wheelchair basketball Blues do not miss their last chance to qualify for the Paralympic Games

“What does not kill you makes you stronger.” The maxim, tattooed all along the right arm of Blues playmaker Jérôme Duran and illuminated by the spotlights of the Azur Arena in Antibes, is almost a mantra for the French wheelchair basketball team. The only collective team not automatically qualified despite the status of host country of the Paralympic Games, this difference could have fueled incomprehension at best, and at worst injustice for the French collective. A feeling which faded, Monday April 15, after the big victory against Morocco (87-60) during the last match of the Paralympic qualifying tournament (TQP), synonymous with participation in the Games this summer.

For four days in the Alpes-Maritimes city, the pressure of the “last chance for Paris 2024” draft (#LastChanceForParis on the networks) hung over Franck Bornerand’s players. But the first success, Friday’s opening match against Iran (63-62), the world’s third nation, set the tone in front of an audience logically committed to the cause of the Blues. On Saturday, it was Canada (61-55) which suffered from the law of Rémi Bayle and his partners.

Impressive in the racket, the former rugby player in Federal 3 used his physique to bother his opponents inside. “I like fighting, that’s what I like about this sportconfided the 34-year-old man, who became paraplegic after an accident ten years earlier. But nothing is finished, we still have two meetings to fulfill the contract.”

For the Pool A final on Sunday, the French team found on its way an opponent that it knows by heart: the Netherlands. A sort of pet peeve in view of the last two major competitions where the teams faced each other (defeat in groups during the 2022 World Cup (77-46) and defeat in the quarter-finals of the 2023 European Championships (63-60)). Impressive in intensity and commitment, the match saw a succession of rough duels and spectacular shoots. Immersion in the world of armchair basketball – aptly depicted by Takehiko Inoue in his manga “Real” – was total.

Under the gaze of Paralympic swimmer David Smétanine, present near the floor to support the French players, the Blues managed to block the opposing attempts. “The instructions were to shield the racket well and not to go out too much on their shooters outside”, explained captain Audrey Cayol after the game. An instruction respected, to which was added a lack of success for the Dutch in the last two quarters, and which tipped the score in favor of the French (48-43). At the top of its group, France was assured – in the game of crossover matches – of finding the bottom of the other group, Morocco, for the decisive match.

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  • Source of information and images “svoboda

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