Wheelchair basketball star Judith Hamer anticipates great things for her sport and she can’t wait for the global stage of the London 2012 Paralympics as an opportunity to show it off.
To date, a record 2.2 million Paralympic tickets have been sold and the 21-year-old has been left inspired by the level of support from the home nation.
“I have been surprised at how positive and excited people have been just to see someone in a Great Britain kit,” she says. “They may not even watch the sport but everyone wants to get behind anybody that’s representing the country.”
GB first take to the Basketball Arena on August 30 where they will face the Netherlands, but before that Judith and her team-mates are paying their competition a visit, to compete in the Speelschema Papendal Tournament from August 15-18.
Here GB face their Paralympic Pool A competition Canada, Australia and the Netherlands as well as Mexico.
“It’s a really good chance to see what other teams are doing,” she says. “To gain some confidence in our team and practice playing against these sides before the main event.”
But she admits getting competition experience whilst minimising injury risks is “quite a fine balance”.
“We have had a lot of training but we have also been trying to rest and make sure we are not overdoing it. It must be hard for the coaches, making sure we get enough practice in without tiring anyone out before London.”
Having taken up the sport as recently as 2007, Judith admits that making the GB team wasn’t in her original game plan, but that’s only because she didn’t know the team existed.
“I found out somebody at school was playing, so I went to her club and a talent ID day to find out more. I didn’t even know there was a Great Britain team when I started, but after Beijing I got invited into the programme and started playing for GB in 2009.”
At just 21, Judith is one of a number of young members on the squad, and thinks that the youthful nature of the team could give them the edge.
“There was quite a big change after Beijing and a lot of new players were brought into the system,” she says, “and there’s a lot of potential for the future as well.”
But that’s not to say they’re lacking in experience. The girls are led by Clare Strange, who is heading into her fourth Paralympics, and with a sixth place finish at the Worlds in 2010 and a bronze at the European Championships in 2011 under their belts, Judith is confident they can leave a lasting mark.
“We are aiming for a top four finish which I think is completely achievable. Anything less than fourth place would be totally upsetting,” she says. “We are definitely capable of a semi-final and I think it’s anybody’s from there.”
Britain’s women finished eighth in Beijing and Judith believes they can better that, as long as they can hold their nerve against the likes of Australia, the Netherlands, USA and Germany and make the most of the home advantage.
“It’s exiting but also scary in a way to think that that so many teams are close together, but it’s exciting to know that competition is so fierce at the moment. I’m hoping that we can use the crowd to our advantage.”
But ultimately, although success at the Games would do the sport no end of good, Judith’s aware that it’s the legacy that’s key.
“Not a lot of people know about this sport, but I think once they see it they will fall in love with it; it’s one of those sports you get addicted to.
“I’m looking forward to new people seeing it and finding out how interesting it is to watch. It can only do the sport good and I’m quite excited to see what happens.”
GB face the Netherlands on August 30, Australia on August 31, Brazil on September 1 and Canada on September 3 with the aim of continuing to the quarters, semis and then the final on September 7.
Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Judith Hamer is a Lloyds TSB Local Hero, one of the 46 Local Heroes selected to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.