The International Paralympic Committee announced on Friday, January 31, that it was removing wheelchair basketball from the 2024 Paralympic Games. The Committee has been unable to reach an agreement with the International Basketball Federation regarding player eligibility, and how players are classified.
Fort St. John’s Bo Hedges is currently in Toronto preparing to play in his fourth Paralympics later this summer in Tokyo. These will be his final games, and in a sense would be unaffected directly if no agreement is made before the 2024 Games. However, it’s possible wheelchair basketball is either removed from the 2020 games as well, or that some players won’t be eligible to play.
"We appreciate that wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games, but this does not mean that the IWBF is above the rules," said IPC president Andrew Parsons in a statement.
The IPC is looking at not allowing players currently classified as 4 and 4.5s to compete, saying they wouldn’t be eligible to compete in other Paralympic sports.
Hedges is confident that the problem will be resolved before the 2024 Games, and doesn’t believe wheelchair basketball will be removed from the Tokyo Games. However, it’s possible that the athletes in question could be affected and deemed ineligible to play. While Hedges’ classification isn’t an issue and he would still be able to play, he said the entire team is still affected.
“There is a chance that the IPC goes through with chaning the classification, but we don’t know that right now. What we do know is it ads a lot of undo stress, both the athletes affected, and the rest of us on the team as well,” said Hedges.
“They are our teammates and friends, and have worked really hard to get to this point. We feel for them and it affects us unintentionally as well.”
Hedges will be going to Nagoya, Japan on February 17 with the current Canadian National Team, to play a couple exhibition games. Nagoya will be the city the wheelchair team goes to in August right before Tokyo, to get used to the time change and other factors, and this trip is being used as a dry run.
The entire pool of eligible players for the 2020 Canadian Team will gather in Toronto on May 4 for training and preparation, with the 12-man roster chosen at the end of June.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.