Wheelchair rugby come back for Paralympic gold medallist Toni Piispanen

Toni Piispanen (kuva: Markku Linkosalo)

Finland hosts the 2018 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby B Division European Championship on 7–15 of October in the Pajulahti Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. The hosts are planning on making a quick return to the Division A after being relegated last year in Germany. Finland named an interesting squad with some newcomers and plenty of experience to the tournament.

Elias Enroth, Joel Pietarila and Juuso Nuotio will make their international debut in Pajulahti. They will be getting enough support from the more experienced players such as Jukka Parviainen, Leevi Ylönen, Antti Sinisaari, Anna Pasanen and Toni Piispanen who will make a come back to the national team after seven years of absence.

Piispanen has been busy winning medals in para-athletics. He is a T51-class 100 metre wheelchair race Paralympic gold medallist from the 2012 Games in London and a World Champion in same event from 2013.

Piispanen played wheelchair rugby for 15 years (1996–2011) before deciding to concentrate solely in athletics. He used to be a national team captain for a long time and played also one season (1999–2000) in the US wheelchair rugby side Tampa Generals.

– My former athletics coach Heini Sistonen thought that wheelchair rugby would be an useful supporting sport for athletics and I have been training with Helsinki Roosters for over a year and played some national tournament last season. My new coach Jari Nordblom has given a green light for me playing wheelchair rugby as well, Piispanen explains.

Athletics is still clear number one for Piispanen, but the next big event in athletics, the IPC World Championships in Dubai will take place no sooner than in autumn 2019 so this seems a good time to do something else for a change.

Finland was drawn to a Pool B of the B Division Euros alongside with Austria, Netherlands and Czech Republic. Pool A consists of Ireland, Switzerland, Italy and Russia. The top two teams of the tournament will be promoted to the Division A and the bottom two will be relegated to the Division C.

Pools (with team’s position in the World Rankings)

  • Pool A: Ireland (15.), Switzerland (17.), Italy (23.), Russia (25.)
  • Pool B: Finland (16.), Austria (21.), Netherlands (24.), Czech Republic (26.)

Finland squad

Players

  • Jukka Parviainen
  • Joel Pietarila
  • Juuso Nuotio
  • Leevi Ylönen
  • Jouni Räsänen
  • Tuukka Nisso
  • Elias Enroth
  • Antti Sinisaari (C)
  • Toni Piispanen
  • Aino Tapola
  • Tuomas Tella
  • Anna Pasanen

Staff

  • Head coach: Jussi Immonen
  • Assistant coach/Team leader: Osku Kuutamo
  • Mechanic: Teemu Janhunen
  • Assistants: Heli Sinisaari, Emmi Kähkönen, Kati Herlevi, Milka Keinänen