The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation has announced a change to the format of the 2020 Paralympic Qualification Tournament, scheduled to begin March 4, 2020, in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.
Earlier this week, the IWRF was advised that in response to the COVID-19 outbreak the Sport Authority of Thailand, based on advice from the Thai Ministry of Public Health, has directed that all travel by Thai athletes to competitions outside Thailand would be cancelled. As a result of this direction, the wheelchair rugby team from Thailand has had to withdraw from the Tournament.
With less than a week before the start of the tournament, the IWRF and the event Organizing Committee agreed that it would not be possible to reallocate Thailand’s position to another country in time for the event. As a result, the tournament format has been revised.
In place of the eight team, two pool format originally planned, the Paralympic Qualification Tournament will now run a seven team round-robin, with all teams playing each other. The top four teams after the round-robin will play off in two finals, with the winners of each playoff match awarded one of the two available qualification spots for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
IWRF Chief Executive Officer Eron Main said, “I realize that a change to the tournament format on short notice may be disruptive to the teams attending; this is not a situation anyone at the IWRF or the Organizing Committee would choose. Unfortunately, it is necessary in this case. The IWRF respects the decision of the Sport Authority of Thailand and we understand it was taken with the health and safety of their athletes in mind. I am confident that the revised tournament format will provide a fair result and a good competition to determine the final two teams who will be invited to Tokyo.”
The remaining seven countries represented at the event, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland will compete at the Richmond Olympic Oval from March 4 to 8, 2020. The final playoffs on Sunday, March 8, will determine which two will receive invitations to the Tokyo 2020 wheelchair rugby competition.