By Paul Eddison in Birmingham
Amy Conroy is a three-time Paralympian, but Birmingham 2022 represents new ground for her in more ways than one.
The wheelchair basketball star made her Commonwealth debut at Smithfield in a new format of the sport, 3x3, as Team England kicked off with a convincing 20-1 victory over Kenya.
And as the sport makes its debut on this stage, the 29-year-old could not hide her excitement at showing off her sport to the wider public.
“I’m so excited and the fact it’s the first time wheelchair basketball has been represented, to be the OGs for this, I could not be more hyped. I’m loving it,” said Conroy, who is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“London 2012 did an amazing job of awareness and putting us on the map. Sometimes people had that attitude of ‘oh, it’s inclusive’, ‘oh, bless them still getting out and about’ but it’s fast, it’s feisty and it’s a real sport. It raised the awareness that it’s as good as any other sport.
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“Today was my first time playing a proper 3x3 game so I was a bit nervous and there were a lot of new rules. We’d never seen Kenya play before so we wanted to come out, try our hardest but not do anything disrespectful if the score got a bit bigger. Now I’m really excited to play Canada in two days.”
The win over Kenya all but guarantees a spot in the semi-finals for England, with their final pool game against Canada set to decide which team will finish as top seeds.
But while it may not ultimately have medal implications, Conroy, who competed in the Paralympics in London, Rio and Tokyo, is desperate to lay down a marker in front of her old man.
Asked who had inspired her, she said: “My dad, he’s my hero, my role model and he’s here – in the cheap seats right at the back, he wouldn’t fork out more than 20 quid! He’s been with me since day one, collecting all the rebounds from my misses, so it’s him.
“We know the Canadians relatively well and they’re looking to win it, as are we. It’s coming home!”
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