Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Andrew Thomson
Back from the IWRF (International Wheelchair Rugby Federation) European Championships and I have another gold medal.
This was my third European Championship and the second time I have been part of the winning team. However, this time was a lot different and mainly because I had decided to miss the final.
This had seemed liken a huge decision for me, do I stay and be part of a team aiming to retain our number one ranking in Europe or do I fly home and attend my brothers wedding? When it actually came down to it, however, it wasn’t a big decision at all and I knew I absolutely had to attend my brothers wedding.
My brother has always been there for me through the toughest time in my life so I was pretty sure I could, and should, make the sacrifice to attend the most important day in his. I make a lot of sacrifices to train and compete playing wheelchair rugby but this was one of those occasions that was too important to miss.
The coaches and the rest of the team had known I would be missing the final, if we got there, since Christmas when I made my decision. They have all been brilliant and been completely understanding of my circumstances and not judged my decision once. Instead, we have been working harder than ever and spent a lot of time developing different !lines that we knew we would need to use. We also had to try and keep it a secret, I am not sure if we succeeded but the idea was to make sure other teams did not know what lineups they would have to face.
In the end it did not seem to really matter that I was not there. There is a real depth within the squad and the players we can bring off the bench. I was absolutely gutted I was not going to be with the team for the final but I had absolute faith they would win. That is not to take anything away from Sweden who are a class team but I trusted that they would get the job done. In fact, after watching the game it was probably the best team performance of the tournament, giving away only one turnover the whole game!
Every athlete wants to feel that they are the reason their team is winning or succeeding but the really special moments come from a shared commitment, to play your role whilst achieving together. That is what I love about this sport, we are working for something bigger than ourselves. In the end it really does not matter about individual accolades or individual statistics but the relationships and achievements that you create with the group. This is what keeps driving me to play and compete in my sport.
This season has made me realise that more than ever. I knew I would not be there to help my teammates in the final so I have been working in every other way I could think of. Whether that is through encouragement or criticism, or simply trying my hardest to to give them the toughest opposition during training. It has all been about working to regain the title.
I am especially proud of our achievement because there has been real pressure. We knew we had to secure the number one spot in Europe for the future of our sport. With the funding situation still unsure moving forward, we knew that we it would put us in a much more attractive position for any potential sponsors if we could win.
The hard work will now start all over again, as European champions we have secured ourselves a spot in the world championships that take place in Sydney next year.
In summary a pretty successful year of wheelchair rugby for me;
US National Champion
GB National Champion
All this leaves me pondering ‘What next I wonder’?
If you’d like to know the backstory to this blog then do catch up on my other blogs by clicking here.