Team to exploit home advantage

FANTASTIC FOURTH? Caroline Maclean
FANTASTIC FOURTH? Caroline Maclean
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CAROLINE Maclean believes Team GB’s wheelchair basketball side are in the best shape ever as they prepare to take on the world on home soil.

The two-time St Edmundsbury Sports Personality of the Year is readying herself for her fourth Games, with this year having the added boost of being played on her doorstep.

London 2012’s Olympics proved to be extremely successful and the 37-year-old is looking forward to the Paralympics capturing the nation’s hearts as well.

“Over the last couple of years our fortunes have really changed and it’s nice we’ve played the top teams and beaten them,” said Maclean, who plays domestically for Sudbury-based Eastern Blue Stars player.

On the international stage, GB have beaten 2010 World Championship finalists USA and Germany in recent months.

Maclean, of Camps Road, Haverhill, travels to London on Saturday for another warm-up game against the USA before entering the athletes’ village on Sunday.

Their first experience of the Olympic Park’s basketball arena will be in a training session on Monday, but they will become more familiar with the O2 Arena.

All but one of Team GB’s matches take place at the O2 Arena, with the only exception being their clash with Brazil on September 1 at the Olympic Park.

“We won’t put too much pressure on ourselves – we’ll just take it one game at a time,” added Maclean. “I’m feeling really confident and I really hope we do well.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t compete with the best, it’s just a case of what happens on the day.”

Britain warmed up for the Paralympics with victories over Mexico and narrow defeats to Australia and Canada in an intense pre-Games training schedule.

But the real work begins on Thursday, August 30, at the O2 Arena (1pm) when they take on the Netherlands – a side Maclean has tipped to be Britain’s strongest contenders for gold.

“If we beat them it would be a great one to start with and if we lose we can just dismiss it and have it out of the way.”

Maclean, who was paralysed at a very young age, got into wheelchair basketball in the early 1990s after seeing an advert in the Haverhill Echo, placed by now-defunct side Suffolk Braves, asking for players.

She missed the cut for the British squad to go to the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, USA, but has been to every Games since with GB going closest to a medal in Beijing, China, in 2008.