Jim Roberts admitted he was in dreamland as he helped Great Britain to a famous wheelchair rugby gold at the Paralympics in Tokyo.
In a sport dubbed ‘Murderball’ it needed the street smarts of a couple of British bruisers to commit the perfect crime and pull off a gold medal heist.
Roberts top scored with 24 tries while Stuart Robinson weighed in with 14 as Great Britain took an early lead against the United States and never let it go.
“This feels amazing, the culmination of so much hard work. We always believed that this group could do something special and amazing.
“The Americans have been dominant in our sport for so long but hopefully this gives us self-belief, we know we can challenge them now. It could be just the start for wheelchair rugby in our country.
“I’m a big, proud Welshman. I go to watch the rugby games when I can and I’m a huge supporter, growing up I loved Mike Phillips and the way he conducted himself.
“I love team sports. We’re achieving something that’s bigger than anything one of us could achieve on our own.”
In their group stage match Great Britain were leading by five tries but finally slipped to a narrow defeat, this time – which the pressure turned up to the max – they held their nerve for a stunning 54-49 victory.
Anyone who has seen the famous 2005 documentary film ‘Murderball’ knows about the sport, players using their wheelchairs as battered bumper cars in an end to end game repeatedly punctuated by thrills and spills.
Rules are straightforward – carry the ball over the try line by any means possible.
In Chuck Aoki the USA have the sport’s superstar, a scoring machine the British team brilliantly negated, forcing him to give up two decisive turnovers in a match in which they always had the momentum.
Just four years ago the British team faced an uncertain future after their funding was cut, only to be partially restored in the build-up to this event.
Whether that fired up the team more is up for debate but given they’d never won a medal in the sport, coming away with gold is some achievement.
“Losing the funding was disappointing but it made us work harder, brought up together as a team and really bonded this group,” he added.
“I’m just so proud of everyone, it’s been a real team effort from so many people and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of all our friends and family.”
Elsewhere, Halesowen’s Jordanne Whiley and team-mate Lucy Shuker sailed into the semi-finals of the women’s doubles with a straight-sets win over South Africa.
The two-time bronze medallists, who are seeded fourth, defeated Kgothatso Montjane and Mariska Venter 6-2, 6-0.
Despite admitting to a difficult start, the pair won eight straight games to continue their hunt for gold.
“I feel like at the beginning, maybe it was a bit wobbly. We made quite a few errors, but we found it quite early on, and then we didn’t lose it,” said Whiley.
“I’m really pleased with that performance. I think it’s a good opening because we’ve had times where we’ve lost it and that could have been quite a close match because they are two good players.
“So I’m quite pleased that we kept to what we were trying to do and in the end it came good.”
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