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U.S. win third wheelchair rugby gold at Beijing Paralympics
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08:41, September 17, 2008

The high-spirit United States beat Australia 53-44 to win their third Paralympic gold in wheelchair rugby here on Tuesday.

The U.S. team won their first two gold medals since the wheelchair rugby was introduced to the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics as a demonstration sport. They took the bronze in Athens four year ago.

Having a redemption of Athens' loss, the exciting Americans celebrated their fifth straight victory at the tournament with a "wheelchair dance", spinning their "vehicles" at the court, while the Aussies, with obvious disappointment on the face, gave each other consoling hugs.

"Winning a gold medal compares only to when I was born and when I got married," said Will Groulx, the American leading scorer.

"This feels so great. We set a goal four years ago, we promised to each other we were going to make it and it is great to see how all the hard work and determination became a gold medal."

The Aussies, who won a silver at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, should be proud of their own performances as the Americans hardly took any advantage to end the second quarter 21-20.

However, the world's No. 1 U.S. strengthened their defense at the second half of the game, when the Australian top scorer Ryley Batt often found himself blocked by two or three aggressive Americans.

Will Groulx, who scored 11 of his 16 goals, helped the U.S. to establish a five goal lead by the third quarter and extended the gap to seven in the end.

However, the 19-year-old Australian "Magic Boy" Batt remained the shiniest star of the game with 23 goals and 12 assists.

"I'm not disappointed at all. I would have liked to win gold of course but the U.S. played a better game. Both teams had such great defence, you couldn't have asked for a better match," said Batt.

Earlier, the Athens runner-up Canada defeated Britain 47-41 to win the bronze medal. The Britons, ranked No. 4 in the world, repeated their Athens 2004 fourth place.

Mike Whitehead scored 14 goals to become Canda's best scorer, while Briton Troye Collins led his teammates with 16 goals.

In another two matches of the day, defending champion New Zealand beat Germany 28-25 to place fifth.

The New Zealanders were far from their tournament goals as they missed out on the semifinals by losing the first two preliminaries to Britain and Australia with identical 39-38. Germany, however, bettered their Athens position of seventh to stand on the sixth.

New Zealand captain David Klinkhamer took the fifth finish as a "complete heartbreak", saying his team "has gone from hero (winning Athens gold) to zero".

"We underperformed and there is no way to sugar coat it," said Klinkhamer. "We failed in executing our game plan and we lacked basic rugby techniques. We don't get to compete often and need to travel more."

Asian powerhouse Japan, who are also set for a medal, suffered another major setback after they surprisingly lost to Germany at the first round of the fifth place playoffs.

However, the Japanese, most of whom got a haircut to show their determination to win after preliminaries, found no trouble to defeat inexperienced China, trouncing the host 58-32 to finish seventh.

China, who trained less than one year, finished their first Paralympics with five straight losses but showed no regret after the match.

"As rookies, we are here to learn from the world's top-level teams and I'm proud that we have been improving match by match and my players have never given up on the court," said China head coach Wen Yan.

"The losses have only inspired us to work harder to do better in London," she said.

Source: Xinhua

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