It’s less than two weeks till the start of the GIO 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships and the best players in the world are getting ready to lead their teams in Sydney, Australia.
Here are just a few players to watch through the tournament:
Ryley Batt, Australia
One of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world, Ryley Batt is a four-time Paralympian at the age of 29. He became the youngest in the sport to compete at the Paralympic Games when he debuted as a 15-year-old at Athens 2004. Now, he has helped Australia to two Paralympic gold medals and the world championship title and he’ll be looking for more hardware on home soil.
Cody Caldwell, Canada
A key member of the Canadian squad, 30-year-old Cody Caldwell from Peterborough, Ont. made his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016 and he will likely play a lot of minutes in Sydney. A talented hockey and soccer player, Caldwell turned to wheelchair rugby in 2008 following a diving accident and first joined the national team in 2013. He was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games.
Trevor Hirschfield, Canada
Canada’s co-captain since 2012, Trevor Hirschfield is one of the best low-point players in the world. A three-time Paralympian, he helped Canada to a silver medal at London 2012 and bronze medal at Beijing 2008 and is still looking to lead the team to new heights. Among his many accolades through a successful career, the 34-year-old Vancouver resident has twice won the Sport BC Athlete of the Year with a Disability.
Ayaz Bhuta, Great Britain
At his first development squad tournament in 2012, Ayaz Bhuta was voted ‘best in class’ and he has grown since then to be one of the top players on the British team. The 29-year-old made his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, where his country narrowly finished fifth. An exciting player to watch, Bhuta was also part of the gold-medal group at the 2015 European Championships.
Chuck Aoki, USA
A longtime member of the American wheelchair rugby team, Chuck Aoki has a Paralympic silver (Rio 2016) and bronze (London 2012) medal to his name. A former wheelchair basketball player, he was named the American rugby team’s player of the year in 2011. Always an MVP candidate, he’ll be competing in his third world championships for the USA at the age of 27.
Yukinobu Ike, Japan
Thirty-eight-year-old Yukinobu Ike also originally played wheelchair basketball, but found greater success with wheelchair rugby. He was part of Japan’s Rio 2016 bronze-medal winning team, his country’s first-ever Paralympic medal in the sport. A dominant player for the Japanese team, he will be one of the players to watch as Japan looks to perform well en route to replicating a medal performance in two years at Tokyo 2020.
The GIO 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby World Championships run from August 5-10 in Sydney, Australia. All games will be broadcast live on CBCSports.ca and Canada’s games will also be available live at Facebook.com/CDNParalympics.