Simon Turner leads Great Britain Special Olympics basketball squad to Los Angeles gold
PUBLISHED: 07:48 29 August 2015
At the conclusion of Great Britain’s third divisioning game at the Special Olympics World Games, a loss to Chinese Taipei, head coach Simon Turner was sweating.
Los Angeles’ tropical conditions or rubbing shoulders with a star-studded crowd such as Justin Bieber, legendary swimmer Michael Phelps and Michelle Obama, all present during the event, could have played a part, but it was the outlook for his squad that was giving him grief.
Previous defeats to New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago had left GB facing a tough route to the gold medal, once their divisioning games, the way to decide who should be paired with who based on disabilities, had been finalised.
Two wins in their final two matches changed their fortunes and they went into the group stages feeling slightly more confident.
WGC’s Turner, who led the side made up of athletes with autism, asberges and learning difficulties, told the WHT: “I was panicking a lot after the Chinese Taipei match.
“We knew we needed to sort it out so we had some team bonding before the fourth match and it seemed to help us all get on the same page.
“We managed to finish divisioning on a high so we were much more upbeat before the group stages and then our game grew from there.”
A clean sweep of wins over Italy, Latvia and China, including two free throw successes in the last 10 seconds ensuring a one-point win, set up a gold medal match with the Chinese. Or so they thought.
He continued: “There was a bit of controversy with us winning the gold medal as China’s coach decided his team should forfeit the match.
“The games committee are really strict so once they failed to show on time for the match, there was no chance of it being rescheduled so we were awarded the gold.
“China eventually turned up an hour later, perhaps after a change of heart, but the result had already been decided.
“We didn’t mind in the end how we won the gold. We believed we deserved it so that’s all that matters.”
The team’s win secured the first-ever Special Olympics gold for a GB basketball team and Turner hailed the efforts of his team.
Turner said: “It was my best experience ever and I would say for all of the players, it was theirs too.
“To be the first team to claim gold at the Special Olympics is such an amazing feeling and we are all proud of our efforts. Hopefully in four years time we can repeat the feat.”
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