Written by Jim Roberts
Edited by Andrew Thomson
It was November in Prague and it was cold. Fortunately, there was no snow, I used to really liked the snow before I was in a wheelchair, now I absolutely hate it, even an inch of snow is enough to stop me getting around. Hands are wet and cold and tyres slip everywhere.
Anyway enough about my dislike of snow and back to Prague. I had made the GB Development team! The hours in the gym and on the court were starting to pay off. Getting our GB vests was a really cool experience. I’m not sure I can explain the feeling when I got to pull on my first vest. I felt an enormous sense of pride. Wearing something with Great Britain written on it is really special, especially when you are aware of the people who have got to wear one before you.
I was even lucky enough to get No9. I was a scrum half prior to being in a chair so this meant a lot to me, and I have kept that number throughout my GB career.
As well as helping me develop my rugby, the trip was actually a great life experience. We arrived to find that our hotel had been overbooked, but we were not to worry as they had sourced us alternative accommodation.
I am sure it would have been a lovely hotel if you didn’t require a wheelchair to get around. No ramp access to the building and a lovely wooden spiral staircase to the rooms. Wheelchair rugby is a really inclusive sport in the fact that there are people competing with a wide range of disabilities, this meant some of my teammates had to be carried to their rooms and the more functional players like myself, had to make their own way up. During the whole kerfuffle the receptionist didn’t even look up from his desk, which we all thought was highly amusing!
The following day we were able to explore Prague’s Old Town. It really is a beautiful city, although not very accessible, we had to help each other navigate the cities cobbles and curbs. So far the trip had just been a really good team building experience, but of course we were there to play some rugby.
I am a very competitive person and the tournament did not go exactly as I would have liked it to.
I was only getting court time when we were either winning by a lot or loosing by a lot. The long and the short of it was that I just wasn’t good enough yet. I like to think I was contributing to the team in other ways but it is still hard to sit on the side and watch your team.
We won our first 3 games which put us top in our group. The semi final was against the Danish national team who were too far strong for us.
The bronze medal game was a bitter pill to swallow as we ended up finishing 4th after loosing to the German national team, whom we had previously beaten in the group stages.
I remember the news of our 4th place finish finally catching up with Dave, one of my teammates, about 2 hours after the game had finished. We all wondered why he was so happy, (turns out he thought we’d won!).
Although the tournament may not have gone as planned, the whole experience and being part of a happy team was brilliant and I wanted more.