George Bates celebrates historic World Championships win

George Bates in action on the court (Credit: British Wheelchair Basketball/SA Images)

Former TASS athlete George Bates made history as a member of Great Britain’s World Championship-winning wheelchair basketball team last month. We caught up with the red hot shooter.

TASS: Can you describe your emotions on the final buzzer having defeated USA in the final?

George Bates: It was unbelievable. I got emotional which I think was down to the journey we’d all been on up to that point. We’d trained so hard and pushed ourselves to the limit all year and to achieve what we did and post the score we beat them by was just incredible.

TASS: How does it feel to be part of a GB team that has won a major championship for the first time?

GB: It’s an amazing feeling but for me we have had players throughout the last 20 to 30 years who have achieved medals and dedicated their life to the sport which secured us funding to enable me and other athletes to train and build a programme. I think it’s great to be the first team to do it but this is for players past and present.

TASS: Did the squad head into the tournament confident of victory?

GB: Yes. Our goal was to win a gold medal and anything other than that would have been failure.

TASS: What made the difference against the Rio Paralympic gold medallists?

GB: We shot the ball at about 60% through the game which is an unbelievable percentage, especially given the pressure of the situation, and our defence was phenomenal. Harry Brown and Simon Brown’s job was to stop the USA’s main scorer and the way they pushed and hustled him and didn’t give him an inch really helped secure that.

Great Britain’s George Bates (Credit: British Wheelchair Basketball/SA Images)

TASS: How significant can this victory be for the sport of wheelchair basketball in the UK?

GB: I think its huge. We’ve never won a world championship and to do so at a time when so many junior players are taking part in the game – and watching it – is so important. It’s really going to inspire them to try and achieve their own goals and dreams. Also, the press coverage we are getting from major news outlets is only going to increase the awareness of our sport.

TASS: Coupled with the success of the women’s silver medal winning squad, are you confident your sport will continue to grow?

GB: Yes I think it will grow. It’s already one of the most popular disability sports to watch and us being world champions and silver medallists is going to increase the coverage going into Tokyo in two years’ time.

TASS: What would you say to any player – male of female – considering wheelchair basketball as an option?

GB:  Try it. I was nervous to try it the first time. I didn’t have a clue that 10 years after first taking up the sport I’d be a world champion! But if that never happened I know I’d have continued to enjoy playing for fun!

TASS: What are the squad’s aims and ambitions for the future?

GB: We want to build on this success. The next step is the European Championships in 2019 and then a gold medal in the Paralympics in 2020.

TASS: How much of a role can TASS play in encouraging and helping to develop the stars of the future?

GB: A huge role. Without the support I received when I was younger and in school (including access to the gym and financial help) I wouldn’t have been to train as much or have access to an S&C coach to really accelerate my development.