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A Hamburg homecoming and a bit of Brit branding
HAMBURG (Steve Goldberg's Wheel World) - The Wheel World convenes this week in Germany where Hamburg, or as I like to call it, the Chicago of Deutschland, is hosting the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships.
Or, as they like to call it, the Rollstuhl-Basketball Weltmeisterschaft.
This tournament will be more familiar to some than most, with an international smorgasbord of players who have played or are now competing for the local BG Baskets Hamburg club.
American Jake Williams, Great Britain's Gaz Choudry; Hiro Kozai and Reo Fujimoto of Japan; Canada's Nik Goncin; Germany's Kai Moller; and the Dutch duo of Mustafa Korkmaz and Robin Poggenwisch have all called Hamburg home in previous seasons.
Mareike Miller of Germany and BG Baskets Hamburg (Photo by Steve Goldberg/SCS Media)
This will be her third World Championships to go with two Paralympic Games and three European Championships.
The powerhouse player, who was a key to Germany's gold medal run in London, is certainly proud of her 1. RBBL team, which also currently includes national teammates Anne Patzwald and Maya Lindholm along with Polish international Marcin Balercowski, Asael Shabo of Israel and Ali Ahmadi from Iran.
"It's an incredibly great coincidence that means a lot," Mareike told me. " Likely the only time ever that I will be able to play a world event in front of so many friends and family as well as my home city."
"Knowing it's so rare to get this opportunity makes it that much more special.
Ever the stateswoman and leader, she added, "I hope the home crowds push us to make the competition itself just as special."
I had to ask.What would you like to see be the lasting story of this event that's getting the big-time push from the city of Hamburg?
"I hope it turns into the legacy the local organizing committee is working hard for: becoming the biggest and best visited World Championships ever. There will be lots of action surrounding the arenas as well as the beautiful park in warm weather. I hope the entire city and world won't be able to forget about the atmosphere and events, making wheelchair basketball that much more known, especially in Hamburg."
IPC lists players to watch at WM2018
Surprisingly Miller wasn't on the IPC's recently announced list of players to watch. The Paralympic governing body went with these suggestions, all good choices but not quite 100% without Miller on the roster.
Alejandro and Pablo Zarzuela (ESP)
Towering twin brothers who helped Spain capture the nation’s first Paralympic medal in the sport at Rio 2016.
Gregg Warburton (GBR)
Prized product of Great Britain’s junior programmes. Helped his country take home Paralympic bronze in 2016 and European Championship gold in 2017.
Gregg Warburton against Japan for Great Britain
Hiroaki Kozai (JPN)
With overseas experience at club teams and university, Kozai is used to playing with the best and brings that to a national team seeking glory ahead of their home Paralympics.
Jannik Blair (AUS)
Extremely talented and experienced low-pointer who has been a key piece to Australia’s wheelchair basketball success, including Paralympic silver from London 2012 and Worlds gold in 2014.
Laura Fuerst (GER)
Paralympic debutant at Rio 2016 now returns as an experienced member from that silver-medal squad who can help Germany remain a wheelchair basketball powerhouse.
Mariska Beijer (NED)
Scoring threat from all ranges on the court, and reason why the Dutch are gold-medal favourites at Hamburg 2018.
The Netherlands Mariska Beijer against Canada's Cindy Ouellet and Arinn Young.
Rose Hollermann (USA)
Was the youngest player on the US women’s team that won gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and now returns as a leader.
Thomas Boehme (GER)
Floor leader for a German men’s side seeking their first World Championship medal, especially on home soil.
Xuejing Chen (CHN)
The 1.0-player is a big reason why China could surprise and see their best finish at a World Championships.
One of those ten is Gregg Warburton, who I once dubbed the Where's Waldo of Wheelchair Basketball as he seemed to be everywhere a ball was tipped one summer. He will be playing for a team with a dazzling new logo as British Wheelchair Basketball looks to reenergize both its base and its potential with sponsors, new players and fans.
As July turned to August, they announced the upgrade that comes with the slogan, "Together we are British Wheelchair Basketball."
We are very proud this morning to unveil our new brand 'Together we are British Wheelchair Basketball'. We believe this brand will live & breathe wheelchair basketball's dynamic DNA & provide the foundations to underpin the future development of our sport. pic.twitter.com/cUS4qEhC9f— BritishWheelchairBball (@BritWheelBBall) August 1, 2018
For one of the premier Paralympic sports which benefitted greatly in the buildup to and the aftermath of the London 2012 games, the governing body of wheelchair basketball in Great Britain had already streamlined its name to the more compact moniker of British Wheelchair Basketball.
Evidently, last year the organization determined that "the sport was on the precipice of significant positive change" and that "To enable the organisation to dynamically move forward and succeed in a commercial and digital world, it needed to fundamentally review its personality, values and positioning."
In the words of Lisa Pearce, who came on board as CEO for British Wheelchair Basketball from the London FA a few months back, “Our sport is incredible - fast and dramatic - and every day we see players competing from elite level internationally to domestically within our national leagues. They are joined by players new to the game, making new friends in our clubs up and down the country."
“We are so proud of our sport, but the old identity for British Wheelchair Basketball no longer worked in today’s world. As a sport we are almost unrecognisable from where we were twenty years ago. We wanted the new brand to fundamentally represent us, unique to British Wheelchair Basketball and our stakeholders.”
As noted in a press release, the new look "will lay the foundations to underpin significant operational and strategic developments in the sport over the forthcoming months and years."
The new brand design that will look nice on t-shirts, hats, bags and whatnot is derived from "three crucial elements of wheelchair basketball, all of which are circular - the basket, wheel and ball." BWB says, "The logo represents a connected community that works together harmoniously. The connecting blades move towards each other in the same formation as a side profile of a wheelchair basketball player."
Basketball organizations, much like basketball teams, are like sharks. They can't stand still and hope to succeed, let alone grow. They must keep pushing forward so here's to BWB for taking the shot.
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