Some of the world's top wheelchair basketball teams will be coming to Worcester this summer, as the British teams begin the next phase of their Paralympic journey.
The University of Worcester Arena will play host to the Men's and Women's Continental Clash from June 5th-9th.
The Arena has provided an outstanding home for British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB) as they prepared for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, which resulted in phenomenal success for them " a bronze medal for the men and 4th for the women.
Immediately after the successes in Rio, Charlie Bethel, BWB's long-serving Chief Executive wrote to the University saying: "On behalf of all of the Great Britain's Men's and Women's teams and British Wheelchair Basketball, I write to thank you for all your support for our achievements in Rio.
"In both cases, the Teams have relied on your support. Having our performance team base in the University has been a great support and it has particularly allowed us to develop the women's team into a world beating squad. The partnership delivery of the European Championships provided the perfect environment to qualify for Rio and perform against the very best teams. The power of what has been achieved in Worcester cannot be underestimated."
Following that success, BWB has now attracted over £6m in funding from UK Sport to support its preparations for Tokyo 2020. This substantial 17% increase in funding for the next cycle of Paralympic training will coincide with the BWB Elite Training Centre moving from Worcester. BWB will shortly announce its new training base, following a competitive tender process.
Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Worcester, said: "We are very proud to have been the home of British Wheelchair Basketball for the last four years, and to have played a positive part in the lead up to their most successful Paralympic Games ever. Working together we have popularised the sport of wheelchair basketball in this City, region and beyond.
"The University of Worcester remains passionately committed to inclusion in all its aspects and we very much look forward to working with BWB to further our shared goals. We wish the current and future players, coaches, staff and Board of BWB the very best and hope that our British national teams will be highly successful in all the tournaments up to and including the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and beyond. We hope that BWB will choose to locate many internationals as well as other events at the University of Worcester Arena in the years ahead."
During their time at Worcester the women's team, which was resident in Worcester full time, has won the Under 25s World Championship Gold Medal, finished 4th at the Paralympics, their highest ever Paralympic placement, finished 5th at the world championships again, their highest ever World Championship finish and won two bronze medals straight in the European Championships.
In 2015, the University of Worcester Arena hosted the most successful ever European Wheelchair Basketball Championships, which were viewed in person and online by over 200,000 people.
The Arena, which is widely considered to be amongst the very best wheelchair sport venues in the world, has been a springboard for the University's growing reputation in inclusive sport. In 2015 it won The Guardian University Award for Buildings that Inspire.
Mick Donovan and Lerverne Barber, from the University of Worcester's Institute of Sport and Exercise Science are now in discussions with the Tokyo Paralympic Committee in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Professor Green added: "Over the coming years at Worcester, we will be further building on the success of the Arena, with additional inclusive education, health and sports facilities at our Severn Campus, immediately adjacent to the Arena. Once these new facilities have been constructed we very much hope to welcome British Wheelchair Basketball back to Worcester after the 2020 Games."
Robin Walker, MP for Worcester, added: "The University of Worcester Arena is a world class facility, which has provided a wonderful home to Team GB's Paralympic wheelchair basketball, enthusing both local people and those from further afield about this sport. The City of Worcester and the whole County can be proud of what has been achieved by the University and its partners in sport.
"I am pleased that June will see more top flight international wheelchair basketball coming to Worcester and whilst we will be sad to see the teams move on, we will always be pleased to welcome them back. I am delighted that the University is continuing its drive to become an international centre for inclusive sport and will continue to work with them to achieve this exciting goal for Worcester."