Swindon's Paralympic Hero Returns With Bronze Medal
Steeped in history, sweat, tears, and countless hours of commitment, representing your country in the World’s most ancient sporting competition is something only a few of us will ever get the chance to experience.
One individual who did achieve this incredible feat, and has a medal to show for it, is Swindon’s Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball player, Ben Fox, who lifted bronze in Tokyo at the 2021 Paralympic Games just four days ago. Total Sport Swindon’s Ryan Walker spoke to Fox to find out more about his incredible Tokyo experience.
Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo 2021 was the Olympics that was delayed by 12 months and then nearly cancelled as Japan teetered on the edge of abandoning the competition altogether.
However, after being given the green light to go ahead without spectators, the games got underway and Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic teams packed their bags for the land of the Rising Sun.
It’s hard to think of a connection between Swindon and Japan, until now, as Team GB Wheelchair Basketball player Ben Fox returns to Wiltshire with a bronze medal safely fastened around his neck.
Making his debut in the Paralympics, Ben Fox, 26, said:
“It was my first ever Paralympics so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was basing a lot of my expectations of what some of the more experienced guys in the team were saying.
“It was such a surreal experience, and just such an incredible two weeks. A massive thank you has to go to Japan and Tokyo for putting on such a great spectacle considering everything that is going on in the World at the moment,” he said.
“We went to Tokyo ranked number 1 in the World and we had very high expectations of ourselves however we were very aware we were very different to the team that won European and World golds.
“For five of us it was our first Paralympic Games and I think if you had said give us our usual preparation without Covid then I really believe we could have won gold, but we went in with the motto that a medal is worth what you put into it,” he added.
“To come away with a medal after the year ourselves, our families have had, the sacrifices we have made, it is just such an incredible feeling to bring something home.
“We would all like the medal to be a different colour but to even have the opportunity to play in the World’s biggest tournament against some of the best players in the World is incredible,” said Fox.
A group stage featuring the four of the top-ranked team's in the World gave Team GB a difficult run to the medal matches. But after a surprising loss to Germany, Fox and his teammates earned impressive victories over reigning Paralympic champions USA, Australia, Iran, and Algeria before entering the knockout stages.
Having established themselves as comeback kings, player-coach Gaz Choudry and Team GB beat Canada before losing to Japan in the semi-finals. A tense affair followed as Team GB secured a narrow 68-58 win over Spain to claim bronze, and Fox said despite targeting gold, he was exceptionally proud of his team’s achievements.
“We had a very tough group with four of the top five teams in it including ourselves,” said Fox.
“We knew it would be really tough and the one game we lost in the group was against the team outside the top four - Germany.
“We went to Tokyo without our coach Haj Bhania due to him testing positive for Covid so Gaz Choudhry stepped up and took the role of player-coach.
“In the loss to Germany we were still trying to work out who we were as a team and unfortunately it took us a loss to sort out what we needed to do,” he added.
“We then went on to beat reigning champions USA by 1 point and that then gave us the spirit to know that we could push on and get to a medal game.
“In our next game against Australia we found ourselves 20 points down at one stage and came back to win by 1 point with a defensive stop in the last two seconds winning us that game.
“After that you could feel the team was coming together, the chemistry was incredible and we then won our last game and finished top of the group.
"We played Canada in the quarter-final and came from behind to win that one comfortably as well.
“We got to the semi-final and we thought it would be our fairytale story of comebacks and get to the final, but fair play to Japan, they outplayed us and it wasn’t meant to be.
“The fact we managed to pick ourselves back up and win against Spain speaks credit to the team and the great job Gaz did as player-coach,” he said.
At just 26, Ben Fox will be hopeful of being part of the Team GB Wheelchair Basketball team once again in 2024 as the Olympic Games head to Paris, but for now, it’s back to competitive league basketball in Spain for Swindon’s Paralympic star.