Lee Manning planning for a golden rebound in Paris

Wolverhampton’s Lee Manning believes Paralympic bronze means just that little bit more after Great Britain rebounded to claim a spot on the men’s wheelchair basketball podium.

Lee Manning competing at Men's Wheelchair Basketball Quarter-Final.
Lee Manning competing at Men's Wheelchair Basketball Quarter-Final.

The team arrived in Tokyo with high expectations after winning the last World Championships, only to learn influential coach Haj Bhania wouldn’t be travelling after testing positive for Covid, Gaz Choudhry stepping up to take on the player-coach role.

After the disappointment of a semi-final defeat to hosts Japan, Great Britain overcame Spain in the bronze medal contest to claim the final spot on the podium with a 68-58 victory at the Ariake Arena.

And Choudhry not only picked the team and called the tactics but top scored with 19 points, aided by close friend and five-time Games veteran Terry Bywater with 14 points.

“I’m overwhelmed, this has been a crazy journey to get here,” said Manning, who started his basketball journey with Peterborough Phoenix. “I’m so proud of the work that Gaz did, taking over this team and coaching for the first time. What he did is special, things like that don’t always happen in sport.

“Everything he did was phenomenal, he always found the right words, he just aced it.

“It was tough but we’ve got such a great ethos and attitude on this team we refocussed. It was just another hurdle to jump over, none of our rivals cared about it. We just roll on to the next thing.”

But Manning acknowledges there is work to do, with just 1,088 days and counting to the start of the next Games in Paris.

Four bronze medals for five Games is a return all on the team are determined to upgrade in three years’ time.

“We need to take the next step, we’ve done it at the World Championships but we need to do it at the Paralympics. I’m very confident in this group – the foundation is there,” added Manning.

Choudhry deflected praise from his team-mates and hailed the collective spirit of the group, many of whom have spent months away from their friends and family to keep the squad as safe as possible during the pandemic.

The next start is a defence of their world title in Dubai next before focus switches to Paris 2024.

“All we’ve done with this medal is validate this team to the outside but for us internally, we were validated already,” he said.

“This team deserves a gold. This group absolutely deserves a gold.

“There are some guys that aren’t here that are at home. When they come back into the team, we are absolutely adamant we want a gold before it’s all said and done, and Paris is what we’re going for.

“In three years, any other variables we don’t have, we’re going to go back and correct those so we have an even better chance of making the final.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and https://paralympics.org.uk/

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