The 2024 IWBF Asia Oceania Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, left an indelible mark on the world of women’s wheelchair basketball, witnessing the highest-ever female participation rate with 63 players across six teams from nine nations in Pool B of the Championship. Among the notable highlights was the groundbreaking initiative that united female players from diverse countries to form an Asia Oceania Composite team, fostering inclusivity and elevating women’s participation in the sport.

For these female athletes, the experience went beyond the court. It provided not only a taste of international wheelchair basketball and, more importantly, forged lasting friendships and a supportive community.

Johanna Sunarto, a participant from Indonesia, expressed her gratitude, stating,

“I am honoured to have participated in the Asia Oceania Zone (AOZ) competition and thrilled to have connected with sisters from different countries, forming an international family in the process. In Indonesia, only two or three girls play with me, and I usually play with men in wheelchair basketball. My goal with the AOZ team is to inspire others and eventually form my own team back home, practicing with my sisters. Of course, I aspire to represent Indonesia in wheelchair basketball. I’m truly grateful to the organizers and sponsors for giving us this opportunity to experience wheelchair basketball at a competitive level in the Asia Oceania region.”

Sunarto’s sentiments resonated with many, highlighting the importance of international competition in building camaraderie and fostering personal growth.

This groundbreaking initiative was made possible through the generous support of Citi, the founding partner of PARA SPORT, the grassroots-to-high performance program of the International Paralympic Committee. Citi’s commitment to the women’s competition extended to six teams: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, the Philippines, and the Asia Oceania Team.

 

 

Tina Davis, Citi Head of Enterprise Marketing and Brand Engagement, said:

“Citi is proud to have supported the 2024 IWBF Asia Oceania Championships as part of our effort to make sports more inclusive across the globe. Seeing the pure joy and excitement of each athlete throughout this event was truly special and made the entire experience worthwhile from that alone. Many of the women don’t get the opportunity to play against equal competition or the chance to play internationally. This year’s competition provided them the chance to compete against equally skilled athletes, raise the profile of women’s wheelchair basketball and create lifelong friendships across nations that are at the core of sports as a whole.”

The collaboration between Citi and PARA SPORT aimed at fostering greater involvement of women in wheelchair basketball while dismantling barriers that hindered their participation. Citi’s support was particularly directed towards less economically developed nations, acknowledging the financial constraints that could impede their representation in competitive events.

A standout moment was the establishment of the Asia Oceania Zone team, featuring players from Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Bahrain. This team, although not impacting overall standings, symbolized the initiative’s success in transcending geographical and economic constraints.

With Citi’s support, the championships made a lasting impact on the lives of female athletes, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse sports landscape.

Don Perriman, IWBF Asia Oceania Secretary General, said:

“Over the last 6 or 7 years, this journey has been dedicated to developing women’s wheelchair basketball in this region, to see the remarkable growth of these female players who initially attended development camps now competing on the international stage. The heartwarming realization of their progress is only possible thanks to the support of Citi for getting them here today. Citi’s commitment has not only allowed teams to compete at the highest level in women’s wheelchair basketball across the Asia Oceania region but has also played a crucial role in uniting women from different nations, fostering communities and forming lasting bonds – a truly meaningful impact across the Zone.”

Kristina Molloy, Chief Membership and Impact Officer at the IPC, added: “Congratulations to all 63 women who took part in the 2024 IWBF Asia Oceania Championships and created history. At the event, we saw what PARA SPORT is all about: increasing awareness, fostering community and advancing inclusion on a global scale.

“These 63 trailblazers competing and creating awareness in Bangkok have the potential to become a new generation of role models for women with disabilities in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Bahrain, who will see how wheelchair basketball, and PARA SPORT, can be a part of their lives. Thank you, Citi, for the continued commitment to support the growth of PARA SPORT to make an inclusive world for persons with disabilities.”