Paralympic superstar Patrick Anderson (CAN) insists the days of a handful of nations ruling the wheelchair basketball roost are coming to an end, with the Tokyo 2020 men’s and women’s tournaments likely to be the Games’ most competitive yet.

Anderson, 42, is aiming to become the first wheelchair basketball player to win four Paralympic gold medals – and five in total – but he says more and more countries are in with a chance of success this time around.

“I’ve been to four Games before this and it was always like, ‘catch up with us in the quarters or semis and that’s when it gets interesting, That’s not the case any more,” he said.

The United States will be out to defend their two Rio 2016 Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball gold medals against an increasingly competitive international field, with the Covid-19 pandemic leaving little in the way of a form guide as the Tokyo 2020 campaign prepares for tip-off.

While USA’s men’s side remain among the favourites after claiming silver at the sport’s most recent major event, the 2018 World Championships, the women’s side fell to sixth at those championships and have only three returning players from the team that won Paralympic gold five years ago.

“Obviously there’s a transition and what you lose is this veteran component and the maturity of veteran athletes and the mentoring that brings,” USA’s women’s coach Lawrence ‘Trooper’ Johnson said.

Photo Courtesy: Steffie Wunderl

The Netherlands claimed the 2018 women’s world title and start as one of the favourites in Tokyo along with world championships runners-up Great Britain and bronze medallists Germany.

“They (Netherlands) were a dominant team in the World Championships,” Johnson said.

“They’re going to be prepared. They’re going to be anxious to defend their World Championship title.”

While two of Germany, Australia and the USA have contested each of the last four Paralympic women’s finals, a host of other teams will battle for a medal in the women’s and men’s tournaments at Tokyo 2020.

Anderson pointed to the 2018 World Championships final, won by Great Britain with a 79-62 win over the USA, when assessing the men’s field, while Spain will be hopeful of repeating their breakthrough final appearance from Rio 2016.

“The US and GB coming off that great final in Hamburg have to be considered one and two in terms of favourites,” he said. “There’s a big pack after that.”

Adding to the intrigue is that many teams have not played a competitive game since the Games were postponed in March 2020, making it difficult to gauge form in the lead-up to the tournament.

“Going into it, normally you have warm-up tournaments, you know what everyone’s been working on,” Great Britain’s women’s co-captain Amy Conroy (GBR) said.

“But now, unless you’ve been snooping and stalking other people’s Instagrams, no one knows what anyone else has been doing.”

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Photo of USA women’s wheelchair basketball team at Rio 2016 by Al Tielemans/OIS

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