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US pips Australia in wheelchair rugby

Two-time Paralympic champion USA regained the gold it lost in wheelchair rugby four years ago by upsetting Australia 53-44 at the Beijing University of Science and Technology Gymnasium on Tuesday.

The gold medal match-up saw the score level pegging 20-20 near the end of the second quarter, when Bryan Kirkland`s goal in the final second gave the US a confidence-building one-point advantage.


Australia`s Ryley Batt (left) tries to stop Bryan Kirkland of the US from passing the ball during the wheelchair rugby final. [Agencies]

But the real turning point came in the third quarter when America`s aggressive full-court defense took effect, which forced Australia to cough up possession five times in the final five minutes of the period.

The US, the bronze medalist in Athens, led the third quarter with 5 points and extended the margin to 9 goals in the end.

Australian "Magic Boy" Ryley Batt couldn`t square the ledger with an outstanding personal tally of 23 goals, as Will Croulx and Bryan Kirkland`s combined effort of 29 goals led the US to victory.

"It felt great to win the gold. It is great to see how all the hard work and determination became a gold medal," Croulx said after the final.

"We set this goal four years ago and promised each other we were going to make it."

Kirkland added: "As everyone knows, we really wanted to redeem ourselves after Athens 2004. Being able to do it is the greatest experience of my life."

Earlier, the US outgunned Great Britain 35-32 in the semifinal after straight wins over China, Japan and Canada, while Australia ground out a 41-40 defeat over Canada to advance to the decider.

Canada, the silver medalist in Athens, beat Great Britain 47-41 in the bronze medal match after the Canadians established an early three-goal lead which they doubled in the fourth quarter.

Mike Whitehead contributed 14 goals for the Canuks, while Briton Collins Troye scored a game-high 16 goals with 11 assists.

Paralympic defending champion New Zealand finished fifth in a tight 28-25 match against European powerhouse Germany, while Japan took seventh place by beating host China 58-32, with Shinichi Shamakawa scoring a game high 15 goals.

"The Chinese team is still very young. Compared with the other seven teams, China still lacks experience and tactics," head coach Wen Yan said.

"But as wheelchair rugby has received huge attention from Chinese people and the media during the tournament, I think we will see the sport develop fast in China after the Games."

Date:2008-9-17 10:13:00     
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