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U.S., Australia to fight for wheelchair rugby gold at Beijing Paralympics
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08:42, September 16, 2008

The United States, twice Paralympic champion, looks for gold redemption in the wheelchair rugby final against Australia after outlasting Britain 35-32 in the semifinal on Monday, while the Britons will play Canada for bronze medal.

The Americans won first two gold medals since the sport was introduced to the Paralympics in 1996 in Atlanta, but they managed only bronze in Athens.

The U.S. showed their world's No. 1 team quality with impressive control of ball in front of more than 6,000 spectators, including Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), once a rugby player of Belgium.

The IOC president was so impressed and showed great interest with the sport after the match.

"I like the sport. I used to be a rugby player myself so I enjoy it. It is close to rugby as it is a contact sport," he said. "I watched a game for the first time on TV last week and I enjoyed it."

American Will Groulx scored 13 goals to lead his side, while Troye Collins contributed 14 goals for Britain.

Groux, who won a bronze in Athens, said he was looking forward to his first individual Paralympic gold.

"This was the most important game (semifinal) for both of us, so there was a lot of pressure. But we have done our part to get us into the final. So now we just have to take it as it comes, do what we do best and play to win," he said.

In another semifinal, Australian "Magic Boy" Ryley Batt led his team to upset Athens silver winner Canada 41-40. The 19-year-old talent scored the last of his 23 goals with 7.7 seconds left in the overtime to give Australia in the decisive point.

Canada played aggressive defence throughout the game but failed of offence, coughing up nine balls. Mike Whitehead and Fabien Lavoie, who scored to tie the game in the last second of the regular time, shared a team-high 13 goals.

In the fifth playoffs in the afternoon, defending champion New Zealand found no trouble to beat host China 47-34 , while Germany harvested a sweaty 39-38 win over Japan in an overtime thriller.

New Zealand established a five-goal lead at the end of the second quarter and never looked back, though China played their best game of the tournament to even narrow the gap to seven points in the second quarter.

New Zealand will play Germany for the fifth place, while the Chinese will fight for the seventh finish against Japan. The hosts lost their last preliminary 55-38 to the Japanese.

"I don't believe there's a magic tomorrow, but I believe my players will not let the Chinese spectators down," said Chinese head coach Wen Yan.

Source: Xinhua

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