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Great Britain's Mandip Sehmi says any wheelchair rugby team is beatable in Rio

Published 06/09/2016

Wheelchair rugby player Mandip Sehmi is looking forward to his third Paralympics in Rio
Wheelchair rugby player Mandip Sehmi is looking forward to his third Paralympics in Rio

Watching quadriplegics knocking each other out of their armoured wheelchairs in a sport known as 'murderball' can take a little getting used to.

When Mandip Sehmi first took part in wheelchair rugby during a have a go session at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, his mum was desperate to intervene.

But the 35-year-old, in Rio for his third Paralympic Games, which open on Wednesday, was addicted to the compelling sport and has not looked back since.

"It's quite a shock," Sehmi, who suffered a broken neck in a car crash in 2000, told Press Association Sport.

"I think my mum was going to run on the court when I was knocked out (of my chair), ready to pick my chair up and smack the other guy round the head.

"They soon see past the crashing and the banging and see how tactical the game is and how good the game is.

"That's what the game is about. No other sport in disability sport has people coming out of their chairs so hard.

"You're going to take the guy out, there's no way round it. It's not an accident - you're trying to do it.

"It's hard-hitting and fast, like nothing out there. I tried a few sports when I was first injured and this is by far the most exciting.

"When I was in hospital playing it I forgot I was in a wheelchair. I didn't want to come out. The physios had to tell you it's time to come out, it's dinner time.

"It's like when you're a kid playing football in the park. Your mum wants to drag you in for tea. It's that kind of sport."

Four athletes are on the court at any one time, with each allocated points depending on the degree of their disability. This makes it an inclusive game and Sehmi believes wheelchair rugby offers a way forward not just for the elite, like himself, with the camaraderie from the team ethos a big benefit.

Sehmi, who is from Leamington Spa, said: "You've got recreational players and it's changed their lives. You see the difference in people when they first come.

"It's about getting people moving, getting people doing things.

"This is one of the few sports that has so many extremes in disability. You can be really disabled and not so disabled, but still take part. It's so inclusive.

"I don't know what I'd be doing or where my life would be without sport.

"When I broke my neck it was the lowest point in my life. Everything I knew was taken away from me in a matter of seconds.

"I'd never have dreamt I'd be here from breaking my neck. It's opportunities that came through hard work and dedication through sport."

Sehmi is thoroughly enjoying being in Rio with ParalympicsGB.

He added: "It's a carnival feel. There's a buzz in the team that I can't explain right now. Everything's really good."

He was in the British team which finished fourth in Beijing and fifth in London, but is optimistic ahead of the Rio Games, with Britain in the same pool as Australia, Canada and hosts Brazil.

"Any team is beatable. It would be amazing to medal," he added.

"It's going to take all of us to be on our best game. We have to be tactically sound. Physically everyone's ready and for me, just believe - we have all the tools in the right places to do this.

"For us it's just taking care of business."

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