James MacSorley arrived to hero’s homecoming at the George Best Belfast City Airport after becoming the first athlete from Northern Ireland to win a gold medal at the World Wheelchair Basketball Champions.
The Belfast man was part of the Great Britain team that won the tournament for the very first time as the beat the USA in the Hamburg final.
“We knew going into the tournament we had a real good chance, we’d played every team we played over the summer in the build-up , we were doing some really good stuff and we knew we had some little things we could bring out if it came to it,” said MacSorley.
“The prep went really went, we had a really good bunch of guys, great staff, we were all based in the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, which has unbelievable facilities, so I can’t thank UK Sport enough for putting us in there.”
“We knew we had a chance but we hadn’t played Australia or the USA, who were the teams that ended up coming second and third, so we knew that was going to be a test if we came up against them and we ended up losing to the USA in the group stages, strangely enough, when they beat us, they beat us by seven, and we came off the court after that loss knowing we could do it.”
“Weirdest atmosphere in that changing room after the game, knowing we’d just lost to the team that we’d probably see in the final and that we had a chance to beat them, and we could do it.”
“When we came out there on the day we hit them so hard, honestly I didn’t believe for a second we wouldn’t do it, it was nervous, obviously, but it was unbelievable play by the boys in the final, I didn’t get on but the lads that did get on, all six of them, were unbelievable.”
“This is the first time I have really thought about it in a historical note, I have thought about the gravity of coming where I come from and making it all the way over there and all the way to the top of the mountain but in the terms of going down in history I don’t want to think about that yet because I still have more to do.”
“I’m in a great position where I’m a world champion but I still have got so much to work on, my plan is to add another couple of medals to the repertoire and go from there and maybe in 15 years when I retire maybe I’ll think about it, right now I’m thinking about relaxing, going on holiday and coming back and getting better.”
MacSorley scored 14 points in the tournament including four in the semi win over Iran and although he didn’t get on court during the final he made up for it in the celebrations.
“I think with a minute to go and you look at the score board and we’re up 17 points you kind of know but I’ve seen weirder things happen so you don’t kind of want to go completely mad but you think you have a chance then it is total elation.”
“I remember sprinting on to the court and trying to find anyone in the same top as me to hug because you know you’re going to hug everyone at some point, if you watch the video there are clips of me screaming and hugging people to me pushing about on my own hands on my head covering my mouth in disbelief,”
“In the changing room after the music never sounded so good, we were in the shower drinking beer and having a great time it was amazing and that makes me want to work harder to get back there in a year and two years in Tokyo and further on after that it is just the best feeling in the world.”
MacSorely brought the world championship trophy to the School Games last weekend in Loughborough and it inspired the Northern Ireland Wheelchair Basketball team to a bronze medal.
“I never get on like I’m a role model and I would never pretend to be one but if I can say I was the first person to make it all the way from the men’s side and that shows the kids coming after me the door is open that’s all I can do, those guys coming after me Conn Nagle, Peter Lewis and a couple of other younger guys who have the chance to be something special and it is credit to Knights Wheelchair Basketball, Disability Sport Northern Ireland then going forward they will get more support from Sport NI and the Sports Institute.”
Pictured George Lucas Chair of Sports Northern Ireland, James MacSorley World Wheelchair Basketball Champion, Performance Planner Debbie Hanna, Interim Director of Performance Peter McCabe