PARALYMPIC bronze medallist Ade Adepitan insists Hope Valley prodigy Maddie Thompson can help Team GB women’s wheelchair basketball side upset the big guns at London 2012.
The 17-year-old was selected in coach Garry Peel’s 12-strong squad last month and after coming so close himself in Athens in 2004 Adepitan believes the Sheffield Steeler will never have a better chance with 10,000 home fans urging her towards the basket at the Basketball Arena.
With Britain possessing one of the youngest sides at this summer’s Games, and returning winless from their Paralympic World Cup campaign in May, their hopes of a medal appear forlorn.
But Adepitan insists that despite her tender age Thompson, who made her GB debut aged just 13, has the temperament to perform on the biggest stage of all.
“Maddie actually made her debut for Team GB as a 13-year-old and she’s still so young but extremely talented,” said Adepitan.
“It’s going to be tough for the women but anything is possible. They beat the German women last year at the Paralympic World Cup and I think they will have the youngest team at the Paralympics – their average age is something like 24.
“They are a very, very young side, but they will have no fear. They will be cocky going into it but they have some great young players.
“The fact we’ll be on home soil and the crowd is 90 per cent in your favour is a really big factor that I think they can tap into. I know it’s a cliché but the crowd can be the sixth woman.
“It plays a huge part when it feels like everyone is on your side, it gives you a lift and when you start scoring baskets it gets louder and louder, the confidence will just flow.
“If little kids suddenly see Team GB doing well they could be the next Maddie Thompson – that’s what we all want.”
Whatever the outcome Adepitan insists the future of British wheelchair basketball is in safe hands.
The 39-year-old admits that while London 2012 might be a bridge too far for the current crop challenging the likes of 2008 Paralympic champions America in the coming years is a distinct possibility for Thompson.
“It’s such an exciting time for wheelchair basketball, the infrastructure is expanding all the time, the numbers are growing so quickly,” he added.
“What this squad can achieve is as a result of the culture of wheelchair basketball that wasn’t there when I was growing up.
“It’s quite rare because a lot of players come in quite late, this generation have a great chance because they will be on a level playing field with the likes of America who have a history of producing talent.”
Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week took place from June 25-29 and is Britain’s biggest school sport event with more than four million pupils staging their own Games this year. Find out more at lloydstsb.com/london2012.