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Chinese rookies take a battering in wheelchair rugby opener

Gold medal contender United States trounced first-timers China 65-30 in the Paralympic wheelchair rugby opener Friday.

Scott Hogsett of the United States (left) tries to grab the ball from China`s Chen Jun in their mixed wheelchair rugby game September 12, 2008. The US defeated China 65-30.

In the often brutal sport, a goal is scored when the player in possession of the ball crosses the other side`s goal line, which is 8m long and marked by cones at each end of a basketball court.

The US team dominated Friday`s match, in which the score was even for just 57 seconds, when China managed to keep the scoreboard tied at 2-2.

The Americans then became unstoppable with aggressive full-court defensive pressure and organized offense to score more goals than it clocked up in any single match at the Athens 2004 Paralympics, where the most the US scored was 54 goals against Japan.

At the beginning of the third of four eight-minute quarters in the Friday`s match, the two-time gold medalists scored eight in a row.

Will Groulx led the Americans in scoring, with 16 goals in 14 minutes.

Han Guifei was the only Chinese player to reach double figures, scoring 13 goals.

But for him and his teammates, enjoying the Paralympics was the most important.

"We were whole-hearted," the 21-year-old said after the match.

"It was difficult for us because we have been training for only a year and our lack of experience showed."

The Chinese players` never-say-die spirit also won praise from the US team.

Brian Kirkland, the captain, said he felt his Chinese counterparts played with heart and never gave up.

"That`s what we want, no matter what their skill level is," Kirkland said,

"I have never seen any team, internationally, reach such a level within such a short amount of time."

Wheelchair rugby was introduced to China in 2005.

The Chinese coach said her team came to the Paralympic court just to enjoy each match, and also to learn from each opponent.

"We came here to learn," Wen Yan told reporters afterwards, noting the great gap between China and the US both in physical strength and skills.

She added that the sport is considered an effective rehabilitation method for quadriplegics.

"The happiest thing was that I saw how my players became athletes from ordinary disabled people after a year of training," Wen said, calling for more disabled people to take part in wheel chair rugby.

Eight teams, divided into two pools, are contesting the wheelchair rugby competition.

In other games Friday, Canada, silver medalist in Athens, beat Japan 48-40 in pool A.

In pool B matches, Australia beat Germany 47-36, while Britain defeated New Zealand 39-38.

Invented in 1977 in Canada, wheelchair rugby was first included as a full medal sport at the Sydney Games in 2000.

It is a team sport exclusively for athletes with a disability affecting both the arms and legs.

Date:2008-9-13 14:10:00     
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