GB sledge hockey captain Ian Warner confident team can make it to Sochi


The team finished seventh in the 2006 Paralympics.


By Ric Sumner

It may have been seven years since his last winter Games appearance but the Paralympic fire still burns brightly in British sledge hockey skipper Ian Warner.

The 38-year-old from East Dulwich is just one of three survivors in the current squad to have appeared at the Nagano Games in 1998, and was in the side that finished seventh in Turin in the 2006 Paralympics.

GB missed out on the last games, but this weekend the full-time solicitor leads his squad back to Turin where they will take on Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and Sweden in a six-nation tournament with the top three set to qualify for Sochi 2014.

And Warner is in no doubt that the current crop have what it takes to make it all the way to Sochi and cause a stir amongst the medal favourites next year.

“I’ve been playing sledge hockey for about 19 years now, I picked it up when I was at university, I was doing wheelchair racing and just going round and round the athletics track on my own, which was getting a bit tedious,” said Warner, who plays for the Kingston Kestrels.

“Some guys said I should have a go and I’ve been playing it ever since.

“We have a great team environment, there’s a great camaraderie in the dressing room and on the ice it’s such a fast, action packed sport, full contact, it’s just great fun to play.

“Competing in the Paralympics is amazing. In Turin we played Italy twice and won on both occasions in front of about 3,000 people and it was just such a fantastic atmosphere.

“Captaining the team gives me great honour every time and it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”

One of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Games, sledge hockey is fast and furious with players using two sticks instead of one to propel themselves around the ice and control the puck.

The GB squad also includes Paralympic javelin thrower Nathan Stephens and three-time sailing Paralympian Stephen Thomas but not Warner’s former Colonel Frank Seely schoolmate Richard Whitehead, who was part of the squad in Turin in 2006.

The players are entirely self-funded and were struggling to pay for the trip to Turin until BT stepped in to help sponsor the team.

“It’s extremely important to have BT on board,” added Warner, who uses a wheelchair after a spinal impairment acquired through illness when he was younger.

“We’re a totally self-funded team otherwise, so having BT come and help us out takes that pressure off and allows us to go out and compete and try and win.”

BT is supporting Nathan Stephens and British Sledge Hockey in their bid to complete at the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi next year. BT has supported the British Paralympic Association since 1989

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