Britain’s Sitting Volleyball women made a piece of history by playing their first ever Paralympic Games contest at London 2012 this morning (Friday), but they couldn’t complete the fairytale by beating world no. 3 team Ukraine.
The strong Ukrainian outfit took the opening set 25-9, but the following two sets were much closer at 25-20 and 25-14.
Ukraine raced away to a 6-0 lead in set one, fuelled by strong serving by Larysa Ponomarenko, before Britain got on the scoreboard. Britain battled back to 10-7, but Ukraine then scored eight points without reply. Despite a late rally, the Ukrainians closed out the set.
Ukraine again made a strong start to set two, going 5-0 up and extended the margin to 10 points at 20-10 at the second technical timeout. But GB rallied, scoring five points unopposed, reducing the deficit to five at 20-15 and a much closer second set ended 25-20.
The Ukranians again started the stronger in the third set, establishing a 10-2 lead. Cheered on by the home crowd at the ExCeL, world no.13 GB battled back into the set, but it was the Ukrainians who took it 25-14.
Afterwards GB captain Claire Harvey said she always thought their opening game would be tricky.
“It was always going to be a tough game,” she said. “We came here with a realistic outlook. We were going to fight for every ball, give it the best game we could and compete at every opportunity. I think we did that today.”
Steve Jones, head coach of the GB women’s team, said: “I was very pleased with the girls. I thought they really dug in deep. Ukraine are a very difficult team to play and we didn’t embarrass ourselves at all.
“I thought the second set particularly was the result of them being loose, letting it go and really feeling they can play the game.”
Some of the biggest cheers of the day were for 7/7 survivor Martine Wright. She said: “The reaction of the crowd was absolutely amazing.
“We played really well today. The serving was good and we’ve got to take a lot from the game. Today was about performance and doing the best we could on court. Hopefully we made everybody proud.”
GB return to action tomorrow (Saturday) against the Netherlands at the ExCeL at 16:00.
After the contest Mayor of London Boris Johnson and former EastEnders star Barbara Windsor took to the court to have a go at Sitting Volleyball.