Totton's Aaron Phipps helps Great Britain achieve historic Paralympic Games wheelchair rugby gold medal
TOTTON'S Aaron Phipps helped Great Britain secure its first wheelchair rugby gold at the Paralympic Games with a tense 54-49 victory over the US.
The reigning European champions led throughout the match, but three-time Paralympic winners, the United States, kept the scores close until Team GB pulled away in a dramatic final quarter in Tokyo.
After the extraordinary performance, Channel 4's The Last Leg invited Phipps, Jamie Stead and Ayaz Bhuta to their show for a hilarious interview.
Britain's gold medal run broke new ground for Team GB, with the best previous finishes being two lost bronze-medal play-offs at the 1996, 2004 and 2008 Paralympics.
Phipps, who finished fifth in London 2012 on his Paralympic debut, finished the latest match with 11 tries.
Team GB's route to the final was anything but smooth sailing. Their journey began with a hard-fought 50-47 win over Canada before a dominant 60-37 victory over New Zealand.
The British team then suffered a 50-48 defeat to eventual silver medallists, the US, who have won a medal at every Paralympic Games since the introduction of the sport. However, the defeat stung a little more, with GB leading the match until the final quarter. The loss was their only defeat on the way to the gold medal decider.
The host nation Japan welcomed Team GB in the semi-final, and they performed superbly, keeping the scores within two points at the halfway mark. However, the stronger side managed to pull away to set up a chance to avenge their earlier loss against the Americans.
Japan went on to stun two-time defending champions Australia to win the bronze-medal match 60-52.
In an eerie shadowing of their earlier defeat, Team GB raced into a healthy lead, with the Americans pulling to within one point going into the final quarter. However, they had learned their lesson as they dominated the last eight minutes to become the first European team to win wheelchair rugby gold at the Paralympics.
Phipps, who came out of international retirement in 2017 in the hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, finished the tournament with 49 points.
The 38-year-old missed the 2016 Rio Games to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, becoming the first disabled person to climb it unassisted. Phipps climbed on his hands and knees with his specialist wheelchair unsuited to the rugged terrain during large parts of the ascent.
The Solent Sharks player lost his legs below the knee and some of his fingers after contracting meningitis when he was 15.
At the Paralympics, wheelchair rugby is a mixed-gender sport, and 33-year-old Kylie Grimes created history by becoming the first woman to win gold.