Manchester Phoenix sledge hockey captain Karl Nicholson and forward Tony Booth have been selected in Great Britain’s squad for next month’s Sochi 2014 Paralympic qualifying tournament in Turin.
GB are aiming to book their place at the Paralympics for the first time since 2006 and will hope to build on their bronze medal-winning performance at the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (Pool B) in Japan in January.
ct-Manchester Phoenix – Karl Nicholson v Kingston KestrelsIn order to secure their place at next year’s Games in Russia, Britain need to finish at least third in a group including hosts Italy, Sweden, South Korea, Japan and Germany. Qualifying matches will take place between 20-26 October.
Nicholson (pictured) and Booth, who were both part of the 2006 squad, will be joined by Stephen Thomas, who has competed at three summer Paralympics in sailing, and Nathan Stephens, who was the last British athlete to compete in the Olympic Stadium in 2012 when he took part in the Paralympic javelin competition. Thomas and Stephens play their club hockey with the Cardiff Devils, who finished as British Sledge Hockey League Division Two champions before falling to the Manchester Phoenix in the Playoffs. Phoenix goalie Steven Midghall and Rob Allen have also been selected as non-travelling reserves for the GB party and will join up with the squad in case of injury.
Since failing to qualify for the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, the British Sledge Hockey Association has run an intensive programme to develop the sport across and GB head coach Andrew Linton believes the investment is set to pay dividends.
“This is the strongest team we’ve put together since my appointment as head coach and it couldn’t come at a more important time,” he said.
“All the players in the GB programme have worked extremely hard and we are sure that their dedication on and off ice will reap its rewards in Turin.”