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Hamburg 2018 - We are the World

HAMBURG (Steve Goldberg's Wheel World) - The center of the wheelchair basketball world, for the next nine days at least, is Hamburg, Germany. It will be a crucible for the dreams of potential champions as well as for those teams just hoping to elevate their games.

It was only a moment, just a brief spot in time, the lowest rated team in the women's competition at the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships had taken the lead on a squad that could arguably win it all.

The first game in any tournament, let alone a planetary championship, doesn't win or lose an event but it does much to set the tone going forward. As it did for both Algeria and Germany.

The three-point shot by Djamila Khemgani gave Algeria a 3-2 edge in their first ever World Championship game. That glory would last but 24 seconds before Mareike Miller's second basket put Germany back in front. Another three by Khemgani would tie the hosts who were silver medalists at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and gold medalists in London at 6-6 but that's as long as the fantasy would last.

Algeria's Djamila Khemgani  launches against Germany   (Photo by Steve Goldberg/SCS Media)

Even though Algeria would score 12, all by the captain Khemgani, for their best quarter of the game, Germany would notch 28 and outrun the first women's team from Africa to compete in a Paralympics 28-2 in the second to remove any residual doubt. It would end 87-24.

Khemgani would tally 15 points but had little help from the rest of the team. It's appropriate that the professional basketball team in town is called the Towers because if was Germany's bigs that led the way. Marina Mohnen led a balanced attack with 16 points. Miller scored 13. Germany's bench would score just over half the total, led by Maya Lindholm and Svenja Mayer adding 11 each.

Even with the lopsided loss, there were positive takeaways for an Algerian side that has an opportunity to improve each time out. For the German women, it was a chance for the entire team to see the court and get past first game jitters.

It was a good night for the raucous home crowd that filled the edel-optics.de arena. The German men's team won their opener easily, dispatching Morocco 84-40. Thomas Bohme led scoring with 22 points including 3-4 from behind the arc.

Thomas Bohme  (Photo by Steve Goldberg/SCS Media)

In one two-minute stretch he hit three straight triples. "I hit the first one, I said 'good'. I took the second one, it went in, so let's take the third one."

His team has yet to experience the podium as the German women have so does that create or reduce expectations.

We don't feel the pressure right now. We are focused on everyone enjoying a home world championship. That's what we will do and see what the outcome is. We might have a chance.  We just have to believe in it.
- Thomas Bohme, German Men's National Team

 It wasn't a dream start from an organizational point of view. Issues with the second court necessitated schedule changes with two women's games – USA v France and Great Britain v Brazil - moved to later days. Sport is about preparation but it's also about adjusting to meet the circumstances, right?

In the day's opening games, Spain got a reality check against the tournament favorites form the Netherlands, while the Dutch were able to shake off any pre-tournament jitters with a performance that got better as the game wore on. Having the size to contend with Mariska Beijer and Bo Kramer didn't mean La Roja had the skill and the Dutch duo scored 37 and 23 points, respectively for the 86-24 win. Beijer shot 77 percent (14-18) from the field and scored 9 points from the line after being fouled 10 times.

Mariska Beijer leads the Netherlands (Photo by Steve Goldberg/SCS Media)

"We played the second half better. The first half, at least I had some jitters," Beijer confessed after the game. "So now we get rid of them and we can focus on the next game that's Australia. It's a good way to start the tournament.

"We try not say that we go for the gold, that we go game by game, do the best that we can do, and hopefully that will give us the best result." It's clear though that this team has higher aspirations.

China may not be a contender for a medal but if a top tier rival like Australia has problems solving the Chinese puzzle, there was little chance that Argentina would find success in their World Championship opener. After being outscored 32-8 in the first half, the South Americans stepped up their game, hitting for 30 points and even winning the third quarter and the half 30-28. A pyric victory though as China had a 24-point buffer. They won 60-38. Lin Suiling and Maria Pallares led their teams with 16 points each.

Other than the postponements, it was a strong opening day for Hamburg 2018.

And to that, I leave you with these words from Bohme, "I believe anything is possible in a world championship."

Steve Goldberg


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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Steve Goldberg

Steve Goldberg

Eight years after first getting a glimpse of wheelchair basketball at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul when covering the Olympics for UPI, Steve Goldberg got the chance to really understand the game as Chief Press Officer for the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta. He's been a follower of the sport ever since. Over the years, the North Carolina-born and bred Tar Heel fan - but University of Georgia grad - has written on business, the economy, sports, and people for media including Time, USA Today, New York magazine, Reuters, Universal Sports, TNT, ESPN, New York Daily News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Olympian. Steve Goldberg's Wheel World will look at the past, present and future of wheelchair basketball.