Totton's Aaron Phipps selected for Tokyo Paralympics wheelchair rugby nine years after his debut in London
TOTTON’S Aaron Phipps has been selected to represent GB at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics, which he says will help strengthen the parasport legacy for future generations.
Phipps, from Totton, Southampton, is one of 12 wheelchair rugby players selected for the Team GB squad this summer and has definite medal potential after finishing fifth in London 2012 on his Paralympic debut.
Phipps came out of international retirement in 2017 in the hopes of qualifying for the Team GB squad for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The team beat the USA, winning the 2019 Four Nations to qualify.
Phipps missed out on the 2016 Rio Games to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, becoming the first disabled person to climb it unassisted.
And the 38-year-old, one of more than 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: “It was a crazy challenge.
“I crawled on my hands and knees for four days to get to the summit once my wheelchair couldn’t cope anymore.
“More than anything, I’m just stubborn. There was no way I was going to be carried. I wanted to do it all myself. It was a big challenge, and I took a lot of lessons from my sport into it as well. So I knew how hard to push myself.
“I played in Japan in 2019, and we were getting 13,000 people coming to a midweek game.
“I think they would have got behind the Paralympics, and it would have been absolutely massive. But if we can promote parasport in these circumstances, it’s only going to get stronger and bigger as we move forwards.
“In London, we did so well with the sell-out crowds. I think we live in one of the most inclusive countries in the entire world, and the way everybody gets behind you and supports you is amazing.
“We invented the Paralympics – we get it. I just can’t wait. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Phipps’ career has been powered by UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme which allows him to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
All have been extremely useful for Phipps in the past year after lockdown meant a break from the team environment.
But Phipps is still confident in his ability, with his background in marathon racing proving vital for his wheelchair rugby fitness.
His Paralympic debut in 2012 signalled a turning point for the sport – and led to Phipps setting up Team Solent Sharks with the help of others along the way.
“Team Solent Sharks was the Paralympic legacy in action for me,” added Phipps, who is bidding to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997.
“I had so many people contacting me on social media after London 2012 saying ‘where can we play wheelchair rugby in the local community?’, so we set up an entire team off the back of that.”
To see the impact the National Lottery has on sport, and in particular Olympic and Paralympic athletes, visit lotterygoodcauses.org.uk