Wikinews interviews Australian wheelchair basketball player Tina McKenzie

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Preston, Victoria, Australia — On Saturday, Wikinews interviewed Tina McKenzie, a former member of the Australia women's national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Gliders. McKenzie, a silver and bronze Paralympic medalist in wheelchair basketball, retired from the game after the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Wikinews caught up with her in a cafe in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Preston.

Tina McKenzie
Image: Australian Paralympic Committee.
Tina McKenzie: [The Spitfire Tournament in Canada] was a really good tournament actually. It was a tournament that I wish we'd actually gone back to more often.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WikinewsWikinews waves Right.png)) Who plays in that one?

Tina McKenzie: It's quite a large Canadian tournament, and so we went as the Gliders team. So we were trying to get as many international games as possible. 'Cause that's one of our problems really, to compete. It costs us so much money to for us to travel overseas and to compete internationally. And so we can compete against each other all the time within Australia but we really need to be able to...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) It's not the same.

Tina McKenzie: No, it's really not, so it's really important to be able to get as a many international trips throughout the year to continue our improvement. Also see where all the other teams are at as well. But yes, Spitfire was good. We took quite a few new girls over there back then in 2005, leading into the World Cup in the Netherlands.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Was that the one where you were the captain of the team, in 2005? Or was that a later one?

Tina McKenzie: No, I captained in 2010. So 2009, 2010 World Cup. And then I had a bit of some time off in 2011.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The Gliders have never won the World Championship.

Tina McKenzie: We always seem to have just a little bit of a chill out at the World Cup. I don't know why. It's really strange occurrence, over the years. 2002 World Cup, we won bronze. Then in 2006 we ended up fourth. It was one of the worst World Cups we've played actually. And then in 2010 we just... I don't know what happened. We just didn't play as well as we thought we would. Came fourth. But you know what? Fired us up for the actual Paralympics. So the World Cup is... it's good to be able to do well at the World Cup, to be placed, but it also means that you get a really good opportunity to know where you're at in that two year gap between the Paralympics. So you can come back home and revisit what you need to do and, you know, where the team's at. And all that sort of stuff.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Unfortunately, they are talking about moving it so it will be on the year before the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The competition from the [FIFA] World Cup and all.

Tina McKenzie: Right. Well, that would be sad.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) But anyway, it is on next year, in June. In Toronto, and they are playing at the Maple Leaf Gardens?

Tina McKenzie: Okay. I don't know where that is.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) I don't know either!

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) We'll find it. The team in Bangkok was pretty similar. There's two — yourself and Amanda Carter — who have retired. Katie Hill wasn't selected, but they had Kathleen O'Kelly-Kennedy back, so there was ten old players and only two new ones.

Tina McKenzie: Which is a good thing for the team. The new ones would have been Georgia [Inglis] and?

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Caitlin de Wit.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah... Shelley Cronau didn't get in?

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) No, she's missed out again.

Tina McKenzie: Interesting.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) That doesn't mean that she won't make the team...

Tina McKenzie: You never know.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You never know until they finally announce it.

Tina McKenzie: You never know what happens. Injuries happen leading into... all types of things and so... you never know what the selection is like.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) They said to me that they expected a couple of people to get sick in Bangkok. And they did.

Tina McKenzie: It's pretty usual, yeah.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) They sort of budgeted for three players each from the men's and women's teams to be sick.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really? And that worked out?

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Yeah. I sort of took to counting the Gliders like sheep so I knew "Okay, we've only go ten, so who's missing?"

Tina McKenzie: I heard Shelley got sick.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) She was sick the whole time. And Caitlin and Georgia were a bit off as well.

Tina McKenzie: It's tough if you haven't been to Asian countries as well, competing and...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The change of diet affects some people.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah. I remember when we went to Korea and...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) When was that?

Tina McKenzie: Korea would have been qualifiers in two thousand and... just before China, so that would have been...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) 2007 or 2008?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, 2007. Maybe late, no, it might have been early 2007. It was a qualifier for — Beijing, I think actually. Anyway, we went and played China, China and Japan. And it was a really tough tournament on some of our really new girls. They really struggled with the food. They struggled with the environment that we were in. It wasn't a clean as what they normally exist in. A lot of them were very grumpy. (laughs) It's really hard when you're so used to being in such a routine, and you know what you want to eat, and you're into a tournament and all of a sudden your stomach or your body can't take the food and you're just living off rice, and that's not great for anyone.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Yeah, well, the men are going to Seoul for their world championship, while the women go to Toronto. And of course the next Paralympics is in Rio.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I know.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) It will be a very different climate and very different food.

Tina McKenzie: We all learn to adjust. I have over the years. I've been a vegetarian for the last thirteen years. Twelve years maybe. So you learn to actually take food with you. And you learn to adjust, knowing what environment you're going in to, and what works for you. I have often carried around cans of red kidney beans. I know that I can put that in lettuce or in salad and get through with a bit of protein. And you know Sarah Stewart does a terrific job being a vegan, and managing the different areas and countries that we've been in to. Germany, for example, is highly dependent on the meat side of food, and I'm pretty sure I remember in Germany I lived on pasta and spaghetti. Tomato sauce. Yeah, that was it. (laughs) That's alright. You just learn. I think its really hard for the new girls that come in to the team. It's so overwhelming at the best of times anyway, and their nerves are really quite wracked I'd say, and that different travel environment is really hard. So I think the more experience they can get in traveling and playing internationally, the better off they'll be for Rio.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) One of the things that struck me about the Australian team — I hadn't seen the Gliders before London. It was an amazing experience seeing you guys come out on the court for the first time at the Marshmallow...

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) It was probably all old hat to you guys. You'd been practicing for months. Certainly since Sydney in July.

Tina McKenzie: It was pretty amazing, yeah. I think it doesn't really matter how many Paralympics you actually do, being able to come out on that court, wherever it is, it's never dull. It's always an amazing experience, and you feel quite honored, and really proud to be there and it still gives you a tingle in your stomach. It's not like "oh, off I go. Bored of this."

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Especially that last night there at the North Greenwich Arena. There were thirteen thousand people there. They opened up some extra parts of the stadium. I could not even see the top rows. They were in darkness.

Tina McKenzie: It's an amazing sport to come and watch, and its an amazing sport to play. It's a good spectator sport I think. People should come and see especially the girls playing. It's quite tough. And I was talking to someone yesterday and it was like "Oh I don't know how you play that! You know, it's so rough. You must get so hurt." It's great! Excellent, you know? Brilliant game that teaches you lots of strategies. And you can actually take all those strategies off the court and into your life as well. So it teaches you a lot of discipline, a lot of structure and... it's a big thing. It's not just about being on the court and throwing a ball around.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) When I saw you last you were in Sydney and you said you were moving down to Melbourne. Why was that?

Tina McKenzie: To move to Melbourne? My mum's down here. And I lived here for sixteen years or something.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) I know you lived here for a long time, but you moved up to Sydney. Did your teacher's degree up there.

Tina McKenzie: I moved to Sydney to go to uni, and Macquarie University were amazing in the support that they actually gave me. Being able to study and play basketball internationally, the scholarship really helped me out. And you know, it wasn't just about the scholarship. It was.. Deidre Anderson was incredible. She's actually from Melbourne as well, but her support emotionally and "How are you doing?" when she'd run into you and was always very good at reading people... where they're at. She totally understands at the levels of playing at national level and international level and so it wasn't just about Macquarie supporting me financially, it was about them supporting me the whole way through. And that was how I got through my degree, and was able to play at that level for such a long time.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) And you like teaching?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I do. Yeah, I do. I'm still waiting on my transfer at the moment from New South Wales to Victoria, but teaching's good. It's really nice to be able to spend some time with kids and I think its really important for kids to be actually around people with disabilities to actually normalize us a little bit and not be so profound about meeting someone that looks a little bit different. And if I can do that at a young age in primary school and let them see that life's pretty normal for me, then I think that's a really important lesson.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You retired just after the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: I did. Yeah. Actually, it took me quite a long time to decide to do that. I actually traveled after London. So I backpacked around... I went to the USA and then to Europe. And I spent a lot of time traveling and seeing amazing new things, and spending time by myself, and reflecting on... So yes, I got to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on my career and where I wanted to go.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Your basketball career or your teaching career?

Tina McKenzie: All the above. Yeah. Everything realistically. And I think it was a really important time for me to sort of decide sort of where I wanted to go in myself. I'd spent sixteen years with the Gliders. So that's a long time to be around the Gliders apparently.
Tina McKenzie (No. 8, at right) listens to the Australian national anthem prior to the match against the United States at the 2012 Summer Paralympics
Image: Laura Hale.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) When did you join them for the first time?

Tina McKenzie: I think it was '89? No, no, no, sorry, no, no, no, '98. We'll say 1998. Yeah, 1998 was my first tournament, against USA. So we played USA up in New South Wales in the Energy Australia tour. So we traveled the coast. Played up at Terrigal. It was a pretty amazing experience, being my first time playing for Australia and it was just a friendly competition so... Long time ago. And that was leading into 2000, into the big Sydney Olympics. That was the beginning of an amazing journey realistically. But going back to why I retired, or thinking about retiring, I think when I came home I decided to spend a little bit more time with mum. Cause we'd actually lost my dad. He passed away two years ago. He got really sick after I came back from World Cup, in 2011, late 2010, he was really unwell, so I spent a lot of time down here. I actually had a couple of months off from the Gliders because I needed to deal with the family. And I think that it was really good to be able to get back and get on the team and... I love playing basketball but after being away, and I've done three Paralympics, I've been up for four campaigns, I think its time now to actually take a step backwards and... Well not backwards... take a step out of it and spend quality time with mum and quality time with people that have supported me throughout the years of me not being around home but floating back in and floating out again and its a really... it's a nice time for me to be able to also take on my teaching career and trying to teach and train and work full time is really hard work and I think its also time for quite a few of the new girls to actually step up and we've got quite a few... You've got Caitlin, and you've got Katie and you've got Shelley and Georgia. There's quite a few nice girls coming through that will fit really well into the team and it's a great opportunity for me to go. It's my time now. See where they go with that, and retire from the Gliders. It was a hard decision. Not an easy decision to retire. I definitely miss it. But I think now I'd rather focus on maybe helping out at the foundation level of starting recruitment and building up a recruiting side in Melbourne and getting new girls to come along and play basketball. People with... doesn't even have to be girls but just trying to re-feed our foundation level of basketball, and if I can do that now I think that's still giving towards the Gliders and Rollers eventually. That would be really nice. Just about re-focusing. I don't want to completely leave basketball. I'd still like to be part of it. Looking to the development side of things and maybe have a little bit more input in that area would be really nice though. Give back the skills I've been taught over the years and be a bit of an educator in that area I think would be nice. It's really hard when you're at that international level to... you're so time poor that it's really hard to be able to focus on all that recruitment and be able to give out skill days when you're actually trying to focus on improving yourself. So now I've got that time that I could actually do that. Be a little bit more involved in mentoring maybe, something like that. Yeah, that's what I'd like to do.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) That would be good.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah! That would be great, actually. So I've just been put on the board of Disability Sport and Recreation, which is the old Wheelchair Sports Victoria. So that's been a nice beginning move. Seeing where all the sports are at, and what we're actually facilitating in Victoria, considering I've been away from Victoria for so long. It's nice to know where they're all at.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Where are they all at?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, dunno. They're not very far at all. Victoria... I think Victoria is really struggling in the basketball world. Yeah, I think there's a bit of a struggle. Back in the day... back in those old times, where Victoria would be running local comps. We'd have an A grade and a B grade on a Thursday night, and we'd have twelve teams in A grade and B grade playing wheelchair basketball. That's a huge amount of people playing and when you started in B grade you'd be hoping that you came around and someone from A grade would ask you to come and play. So it was a really nice way to build your basketball skills up and get to know that community. And I think its really important to have a community, people that you actually feel comfortable and safe around. I don't want to say it's a community of disabled people. It's actually...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) It's not really because...

Tina McKenzie: Well, it's not. The community's massive. It's not just someone being in a chair. You've got your referees, you've got people that are coming along to support you. And it's a beautiful community. I always remember Liesl calling it a family, and it's like a family so... and it's not just Australia-based. It's international. It's quite incredible. It's really lovely. But it's about providing that community for new players to come through. And you know, not every player that comes through to play basketball wants to be a Paralympian. So its about actually providing sport, opportunities for people to be physically active. And if they do want to compete for Australia and they're good enough, well then we support that. But I think it's really hard in the female side of things. There's not as many females with a disability.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Yeah, they kept on pointing that out...

Tina McKenzie: It's really hard, but I think one of the other things is that we also need to be able to get the sport out there into the general community. And it's not just about having a disability, it's about coming along and playing with your mate that might be classifiable or an ex-basketball player. Like I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she's six foot two...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Sounds like a basketball player already.

Tina McKenzie: She's been a basketball player, an AB basketball player for years. Grew up playing over in Adelaide, and her knee is so bad that she can't run anymore, and she can't cycle, but yet wants to be physically active, and I'm like "Oooh, you can come along and play wheelchair basketball" and she's like "I didn't even think that I could do that!" So it's about promoting. It not that you actually have to be full time in the chair, or being someone with an amputation or other congenitals like a spinal disability, it's wear and tear on people's bodies and such.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Something I noticed in the crowd in London. People seemed to think that they were in the chair all the time and were surprised when most of the Rollers got up out of their chairs at the end of the game.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Disability is a very complicated thing.

Tina McKenzie: It is, yeah.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) I was surprised myself at people who were always in a chair, but yet can wiggle their toes.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it's the preconceived thing, like if you see someone in a chair, a lot of people just think that nothing works, but in hindsight there are so many varying levels of disability. Some people don't need to be in a chair all the time, sometimes they need to be in it occasionally. Yeah, it's kind of a hard thing.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Also talking to the classifiers and they mentioned the people playing [wheelchair] basketball who have no disability at all but are important to the different teams, that carry their bags and stuff.

Tina McKenzie: So important, yeah. It's the support network and I think that when we started developing Women's National League to start in 2000, one of the models that we took that off was the Canadian Women's National League. They run an amazing national league with huge amounts of able bodied women coming in and playing it, and they travel all over Canada [playing] against each other and they do have a round robin in certain areas like our Women's National League as well but it's so popular over there that it's hard to get on the team. They have a certain amount of women with disabilities and then other able bodied women that just want to come along and play because they see it as a really great sport. And that's how we tried to model our Women's National League off. It's about getting many women just to play sport, realistically.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Getting women to play sport, whether disabled or not, is another story. And there seems to be a reluctance amongst women to participate in sports, particularly sports that they regard as being men's sports.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, a masculine sport.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) They would much rather play a sport that is a women's sport.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it's really hard. I think it's about just encouraging people, communicating, having a really nice welcoming, come and try day. We run a... like Sarah [Stewart] actually this yeah will be running the women's festival of sport, which is on the 30th of January. And that's an amazing tournament. That actually started from club championship days, where we used to run club championships. And then the club championships then used to feed in to our Women's National League. Club championships used to about getting as many women to come along and play whether they're AB or have a disability. It's just about participation. It'll be a really fun weekend. And it's a pretty easy weekend for some of us.
Tina McKenzie (No. 8, at right) on the court in the quarter final against Mexico
Image: Laura Hale.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Where is it?

Tina McKenzie: Next year, in 2014, it'll be January the 30th at Narrabeen. We hold it every year. And last year we got the goalball girls to come along and play. So we had half of the goalball girls come and play for the weekend and they had an absolute brilliant time. Finding young girls that are walking down the street that just want to come and play sport. Or they have a friend at high school that has a disability. And it's just about having a nice weekend, meeting other people that have disabilities or not have disabilities and just playing together. It's a brilliant weekend. And every year we always have new faces come along and we hope that those new faces stay around and enjoy the weekend. Because it's no so highly competitive, it's just about just playing. Like last year I brought three or four friends of mine, flew up from Melbourne, ABs, just to come along and play. It was really nice that I had the opportunity to play a game of basketball with the friends that I hang out with. Which was really nice. So the sport's not just Paralympics.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How does Victoria compare with New South Wales?

Tina McKenzie: Oh, that's a thing to ask! (laughs) Look I think both states go in highs and lows, in different things. I think all the policies that have been changing in who's supporting who and... like, Wheelchair Sports New South Wales do a good job at supporting the basketball community. Of course, there's always a willingness for more money to come in but they run a fairly good support and so does the New South Wales Institute of Sport. It's definitely gotten better since I first started up there. And then, it's really hard to compare because both states do things very differently. Yeah, really differently and I always remember being in Victoria... I dunno when that was... in early 2000. New South Wales had an amazing program. It seemed so much more supportive than what we had down here in Victoria. But then even going to New South Wales and seeing the program that they have up there, it wasn't as brilliant as... the grass isn't always greener on the other side, cause there there good things and there were weren't so great things about the both programs in Victoria and in New South Wales so... The VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport] do some great support with some of the athletes down here, and NSWIS [New South Wales Instituted of Sport] are building and improving and I know their program's changed quite a lot now with Tom [Kyle] and Ben [Osborne] being involved with NSWIS so I can't really give feedback on how that program's running but in short I know that when NSWIS employed Ben Osborne to come along and actually coach us as a basketball individual and as in group sessions it was the best thing that they ever did. Like, it was so good to be able to have one coach to actually go and go we do an individual session or when are you running group sessions and it just helped me. It helped you train. It was just a really... it was beneficial. Whereas Victoria don't have that at the moment. So both states struggle some days. I mean, back in 2000 Victoria had six or seven Gliders players, and then New South Wales had as many, and then it kind of does a big swap. It depends on what the state infrastructure is, what the support network is, and how local comps are running, how the national league's running, and it's about numbers. It's all about numbers.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) At the moment you'll notice a large contingent of Gliders from Western Australia.

Tina McKenzie: Yes, yes, I have seen that, yeah. And that's good because its... what happens is, someone comes along in either state, or wherever it may be, and they're hugely passionate about building and improving that side of things and they have the time to give to it, and that's what's happened in WA [Western Australia]. Which has been great. Ben Ettridge has been amazing, and so has John. And then in New South Wales you have Gerry driving that years ago. Gerry has always been a hugely passionate man about improving numbers, about participation, and individuals' improvement, you know? So he's been quite a passionate man about making sure people are improving individually. And you know, Gerry Hewson's been quite a driver of wheelchair basketball in New South Wales. He's been an important factor, I think.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The news recently has been Basketball Australia taking over the running of things. The Gliders now have a full time coach.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, which is fantastic! That's exciting. It's a good professional move, you know? It's nice to actually know that that's what's happening and I think that only will lead to improvement of all the girls, and the Gliders may go from one level up to the next level which is fantastic so... and Tom sounds like a great man so I really hope that he enjoys himself.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) I'm sure he is.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I've done some work with Tom. He's a good guy.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Did you do some work with him?

Tina McKenzie: Ah, well, no, I just went up to Brisbane a couple of times and did some development days. Played in one of their Australia Day tournaments with some of the developing girls that they have. We did a day camp leading into that. Went and did a bit of mentoring I guess. And it was nice to do that with Tom. That was a long time before Tom... I guess Tom had just started on the men's team back them. He was very passionate about improving everyone, which he still is.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Watching the Gliders and the Rollers... with the Rollers, they can do it. With the Gliders... much more drama from the Gliders in London. For a time we didn't even know if they were going to make the finals. Lost that game against Canada.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, that wasn't a great game. No. It was pretty scary. But, you know, we always fight back. In true Gliders style. Seems to be... we don't like to take the easy road, we like to take the hard road, sometimes.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Apparently.

Tina McKenzie: It's been a well-known thing. I don't know why it is but it just seems to happen that way.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You said you played over 100 [international] games. By our count there was 176 before you went to London, plus two games there makes 178 international caps. Which is more than some teams that you played against put together.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I thought I'd be up to nearly 200. Look, I think it's an amazing thing to have that many games under your belt and the experience that's gained me throughout the years, and you've got to be proud about it. Proud that I stayed in there and competed with one of the best teams in the world. I always believed that the Gliders can be the best in the world but...

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You need to prove it.

Tina McKenzie: Need to get there. Just a bit extra.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Before every game in London there was an announcement that at the World Championships and the Paralympics "they have never won".

Tina McKenzie: No, no. I remember 2000 in Sydney, watching the girls play against Canada in 2000. Terrible game. Yet they were a brilliant team in 2000 as well. I think the Gliders have always had a great team. Just unfortunately, that last final game. We haven't been able to get over that line yet.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You were in the final game in 2004.

Tina McKenzie: Yep, never forget that. It was an amazing game.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) What was it like?

Tina McKenzie: I think we played our gold medal game against the USA the first game up. We knew that we had to beat USA that day, that morning. It was 8am in the morning, maybe 8:30 in the morning and it was one of the earliest games that we played and we'd been preparing for this game knowing that we had to beat USA to make sure that our crossovers would be okay, and knew that we'd sit in a really good position against the rest of the teams that we would most likely play. And I think that being my first ever Paralympic Games it was unforgettable. I think I'll never, not forget it. The anticipation, adrenalin and excitement. And also being a little bit scared sometimes. It was really an amazing game. We did play really, really well. We beat America by maybe one point I think that day. So we played a tough, tough game. Then we went into the gold medal game... I just don't think we had much left in our energy fuel. I think it was sort of... we knew that we had to get there but we just didn't have enough to get over the line, and that was really unfortunate. And it was really sad. It was sad that we knew that we could actually beat America, but at the end of the day the best team wins.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The best team on the court on the day.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, absolutely. And that can change any day. It depends where your team's at. What the ethos is like. and so it's... Yeah, I don't think you can actually say that every team's gonna be on top every day, and it's not always going to be that way. I'm hoping the Gliders will put it all together and be able to take that way through and get that little gold medal. That would be really nice. Love to see that happen.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) I'd like to see that happen. I'd really like to see them win. In Toronto, apparently, because the Canadian men are not in the thing, the Canadians are going to be focusing on their women's team. They apparently didn't take their best team and their men were knocked out by Columbia or Mexico or something like that.

Tina McKenzie: Wow.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) And in the women's competition there's teams like Peru. But I remember in London that Gliders were wrong-footed by Brazil, a team that they had never faced before. Nearly lost that game.

Tina McKenzie: (laughs) Oh yes. Brazil were an unknown factor to us. So they were quite unknown. We'd done a bit of scouting but if you've never played someone before you get into an unknown situation. We knew that they'd be quite similar players to Mexico but you know what? Brazil had a great game. They had a brilliant game. We didn't have a very good game at all. And it's really hard going into a game that you know that you need to win unbeknown to what all these players can do. You can scout them as much as you want but it's actually about being on court and playing them. That makes a huge difference. I think one of the things here in Australia is that we play each other so often. We play against each other so often in the Women's National League. We know exactly what... I know that Shelley Chaplin is going to want to go right and close it up and Cobi Crispin is going to dive underneath the key and do a spin and get the ball. So you've actually... you know what these players want to do. I know that Kylie Gauci likes to double screen somewhere, and she'll put it in, and its great to have that knowledge of what your players really like to do when you're playing with them but going into a team like Brazil we knew a couple of the players, what they like to do but we had no idea what their speed was like or what their one-pointers were going to do. Who knows? So it was a bit of an unknown.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) They'll definitely be an interesting side when it comes to Rio.

Tina McKenzie: I think they'll be quite good. And that happened with China. I'll always remember seeing China when we were in Korea for the first time and going "Wow, these girls can hardly move a chair" but some of them could shoot, and they went from being very fresh players to going into China as quite a substantial team, and then yet again step it up again in London. And they're a good team. I think its really important as not to underestimate any team at a Paralympics or at a World Cup. I mean, Netherlands have done that to us over and over again.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) They're a tough team too.

Tina McKenzie: They're a really tough team and they're really unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes when they're on, they're on. They're tough. They're really tough. And they've got a little bit of hunger in them now. Like, they're really hungry to be the top team. And you can see that. And I remember seeing that in Germany, in Beijing.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The Germans lost to the Americans in the final in Beijing.

Tina McKenzie: Yes. Yeah, they did.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) And between 2008 and 2012 all they talked about was the US, and a rematch against the US. But of course when it came to London, they didn't face the US at all, because you guys knocked the US out of the competition.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, we did. It was great. A great game that.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You won by a point.

Tina McKenzie: Fantastic. Oh my God I came. Still gives me heart palpitations.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) It went down to a final shot. There was a chance that the Americans would win the thing with a shot after the siren. Well, a buzzer-beater.

Tina McKenzie: Tough game. Tough game. That's why you go to the Paralympics. You have those tough, nail-biting games. You hope that at the end of the day that... Well, you always go in as a player knowing that you've done whatever you can do.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Thankyou very much for this.

Tina McKenzie: That's alright. No problems at all!


Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.


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