When their head coach tested positive for Covid and was forced to stay home, Britain’s men’s wheelchair basketball team appeared to be a ship without a captain in Tokyo.
But through rough seas they managed to make their way to the Paralympic Games semifinals – and will stop for a bit as they chase gold.
It is true that it took Britain a while to step up a gear in their quarter-final against Canada, but when they did they were irresistible as Gaz Choudhry got them led to a 66-52 win.
They will now face Japan in the semi-finals on Friday and know that a victory will propel them to a gold medal match that would be as remarkable as it is unlikely after a stressful start to the Games.
Head coach Haj Bhania was almost done packing when he learned he had tested positive just 48 hours before the plane left.
In a last-minute reshuffle, star player Choudhry has been installed as player-coach and is tasked with leading the squad in Tokyo.
He proved he does a good job in both departments by scoring the best score with 21 points against Canada and said the upheaval created a siege mentality.
“It’s easy to be a team when things are going well, it really is,” said Choudhry. “I’ve been on teams where it seemed like sunshine and rainbows, but all kind of adversity and it’s a house of cards and it crumbles.
“We are a team that no matter what adversity we face we merge better and we are like a block of Jenga, you keep taking pieces but we seem to stay strong. And no one has yet found a movement that turns it all around.
“It was an absolute punch. But we have a mantra that anything crazy can and will happen and this is the kind of year that everyone goes through.
“So we had that planned, we had very strict protocols, like a person broke down, that sort of thing. We played out the scenarios and were convinced that even if that happened, we would overcome them. “
Great Britain have become the comeback king in their last two games at Ariake Arena.
In their last group game against Australia, they reversed a 13-point halftime deficit to win 70-69 in the final second and, while it wasn’t as dramatic against Canada, their quick finish was always impressive.
Canada led 30-26 at halftime, but Great Britain outscored them 24-9 in the final quarter to advance to the final four.
“I don’t know what it is, we seem to play our best when we’re back to the wall and I don’t know why,” added Choudhry.
“If I could bottle what we did when we broke down, we would have it from the start.”
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