Manchester Phoenix sledge hockey players up for World Championships
Four Manchester Phoenix sledge hockey players are in the frame to represent Great Britain at the Pool B World Championships in Japan.
Phoenix captain Karl Nicholson (pictured in red and white jersey), Rob Allen, Tony Booth and Steven Midghall have been selected in a 19-strong squad that will be trimmed to a maximum of 15 players for the trip to Nagano in March.
Team GB are in a pool including Japan and Poland for what will be the first ever sledge hockey World Championship to be held in Asia. A top three finish will see Great Britain qualify for the Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament later this year.
The British team recently took part in the New Year Cup in Russia. Although they lost all three of their games, the tournament was a success in terms of giving Britain's relatively inexperienced squad a taste of international competition. The team had also made clear progress against some of the top sides in the world, including the dominant hosts, who swept aside all comers to take the gold medal.
GB lost 5-2 against Estonia, a team that has just dropped out of Pool A and that won 16-0 when the sides met in 2011.
They also went down 16-0 to the Russians, a true superpower of the sport with a fully professional squad that trains 200 days a year and receives a reported $1.8 million in sponsorship alone.
GB lost their final game 8-1 to Sweden. The Swedes were recently promoted to Pool A and the Scandinavians ran out 23-0 winners when the two teams met in 2011.
Great Britain will look to build on the experience of the New Year Cup next month when the squad travel to Estonia to take part in three games and a training camp with the Estonian national team.
Great Britain squad: Rob Allen (Manchester Phoenix), Caroline Bonner (Coventry Honey Badgers), Tony Booth (Manchester Phoenix), Darren Brown (Peterborough Phantoms), Tyler Christopher (Battle Back Bisons), Matt Clarkson (Kingston Kestrels), Matthew Coleman (Peterborough Phantoms), Lee Coupe (Battle Back Bisons), Gary Farmer (Peterborough Phantoms), Rob Gaze (Peterborough Phantoms), Tom Graham (Peterborough Phantoms), Bryan Hackworth (Kingston Kestrels), Steven Midghall (Manchester Phoenix), Karl Nicholson (Manchester Phoenix), Jack Waring (Peterborough Phantoms), Ian Warner (capt) (Kingston Kestrels), Matt Woollias (Kingston Kestrels), Stephen Thomas (Cardiff Huskies).
By Andy Jowett