A motivator, team player and pioneer in wheelchair basketball and Paralympic sports read our exclusive interview with the IPC President Sir Philip Craven

1974 in classic defensive position eying Leo van Eijk of Holland

Sir Philip Craven playing for GB against Leo van Eijk of Holland in 1974

When he speaks about Rio Sir Philip goes into raptures. ‘It’s an amazing place, a busy place but also a fantastic place’.

He knows what he’s talking about as Sir Philip has not only visited Rio a number of times as IPC president in preparation for the games he has also studied geography.

A husband, a father, a former national wheelchair basketball player for Great Britain, the founder and former president of the IWBF (International Wheelchair Basketball Federation) and so on, the 66 year old man is multi-talented but what he especially loves is sports. His passion for sports seems to be unlimited.

In 2001 he became the President of the IPC and whilst in post has developed the Paralympic movement into a fascinating brand. From event to event there are more participants, the numbers of spectators is increasing as well as greater media coverage.

Sir Philip will open the Paralympic Games on the 7th September in Maracanã, Rio, for the last time as president of the IPC. In 2017 after 16 years as president his office will end.

He is already looking forward to the opening ceremony. Nervous? Not Sir Philip. ‘I’m not worried about all of the people around. I hope that they will enjoy the speech and the words that I give to them.’

He knows what he wants, he describes himself as, “I’m determined but also a pleasing person”.

And if something is wrong he is always passionate about getting involved. He does everything with full commitment, whether as a national wheelchair basketball player, as president of the IWBF or as president of the IPC. He just proved his consistent and transparent manner of acting when the IPC suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) from the Rio Paralympic Games. ‘Fair play has been the foundation of sports. If we subside this basis, we would be lost,’ were his words for this decision.

Never the less he is an optimist, and although it’s the first time that the Paralympic Games will take place on the South American continent he thinks there will be no problem for the athletes.

1976_Craven_Training_at_work_BW_credit British Coal

Sir Philip Craven wheelchair basketball training in his playing days

There will be 22 different sports in Rio, although there is one that still beats wildly in his heart – wheelchair basketball.

For him it’s just a great (though difficult) sport. ‘When you can play it, my god, you can have it so good,’ he explains with a big smile. He tries to follow this sport whenever he can as well as IWBF, the International Federation for wheelchair basketball, which he founded in 1993.

Has wheelchair basketball changed dramatically since he was president? He isn’t sure about that. Although it’s much harder and faster today, he believes that the majority of great players came from before 20th century during the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Today he is fascinated about the fantastic technical skill required in matches.

In Rio he expects the wheelchair basketball to be an exciting competition but is unable to predict a winner.

“I’ve been an observer of the games from time to time but I’m not deeply involved right now. I hope I will be there for men’s and women’s finals.”

When he is attending the games he won’t be dressed in his suit, well at least not for the first half, as he simply likes being a spectator. Following his term of office as president of the IPC he is hoping to be able to watch matches more often but he has no specific plans so far.

For the future of wheelchair basketball he wishes to see more national teams playing the sport, more clubs, more divisions and more championships. And for his future? “Hopefully I can remain somewhere in sports, I won’t be a president of a sports federation I can assure you of that. 16 years has been enough”. However, it will allow him to take part in more sport and spend more time with his family. One thing is for sure, Sir Philip won’t retire. ‘If I’ve got to retire I’ve got to die’, he says and adds with a smile ‘66 Clickety click like in Bingo‘. So we can certainly look forward to that we will hear more from this successful man in the future.

IWBF wishes Sir Philip and the IPC all the best for the Rio Paralympic Games and would like to thank Sir Philip for a great interview and his support of our fantastic sport!