Maclean urged to stay by coach

BEST EVER: Caroline Maclean ' pictured in action during Paralympics GB's defeat to Canada ' secured seventh at the London 2012 Games, her best finish in four Paralympics.
BEST EVER: Caroline Maclean ' pictured in action during Paralympics GB's defeat to Canada ' secured seventh at the London 2012 Games, her best finish in four Paralympics.

PARALYMPICS GB coach Garry Peel is desperate for ‘mother figure’ Caroline Maclean to remain an international wheelchair basketball player.

Haverhill-based Maclean has hinted several times she could be retiring after London 2012, during which she achieved her best ever Paralympics finish of seventh.

The 37-year-old helped Britain thrash Mexico 59-37 in Friday’s seventh-place play-off, after which Peel said he would not let two-time St Edmundsbury Sports Personality of the Year Maclean go without a fight.

“I keep telling her she’s not allowed to go yet,” he said. “We don’t want to lose this group of girls, but another four years to Rio is a long time.

“Caroline has been great for us and she is a great person herself, so I don’t want to lose her yet.

“I might let her go in a year or two, but I will try to persuade her to stay because she’s enjoying her basketball.

“She’s like the mother figure to the girls and calms them down a bit – we still need her.”

Meanwhile, Maclean – who plays for Sudbury-based Eastern Blue Stars – admitted another Paralympics is out of the question, but expects to make a decision within days on her short-term international future.

She said: “I think I might be done soon – Rio definitely won’t be for me, but I think the girls can win a medal out there.”

An early morning start for Friday’s seventh-place play-off at a mostly-empty North Greenwich Arena – formerly the Millennium Dome – seemed to favour Mexico, who blasted into a seven-point lead before GB registered a point.

The home side slowly clawed their way back into it, with a six-point run at the beginning of the second quarter handing them the lead.
Despite Amy Conroy and Helen Freeman dominating the British scoring – the pair ending with 22 points and 16 points respectively, the latter also with nine assists – Mexico were a point ahead at the break.

However, that all changed after half-time as GB stormed clear, upping their shooting percentage, which had let them down all tournament.

During one spell, GB recorded 20 points to Mexico’s two, before eventually easing out to a 22-point success and Maclean’s first-ever seventh-place finish at the Paralympics, bettering her three previous eight places.

“It was always going to be great to end on a win, even though we still didn’t play great and left it late to sort ourselves out,” said Maclean, who got the third highest number of assists for GB during the match. “If we’d lost against Mexico I would have been devastated, but seventh is not what we came for, which is disappointing.

“The support has been great – I’ve been getting so many messages.”