BENDIGO basketballer Bree Mellberg has emerged from a week-long Australian Gliders training camp in high-spirits and cautiously optimistic about achieving her Tokyo Paralympics dream.
Mellberg, who is these days based in Melbourne, was one of 20 wheelchair athletes invited to the Australian team training camp, held at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra from January 28 to February 4.
The group will eventually be culled to a final team of 12 for the Paralympics, to be staged from August 24 to September 5.
Following a frustratingly long wait on the sidelines during 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mellberg was simply thrilled to be back on the court in Canberra,
She viewed the chance to push her case for selection as a bit of a bonus.
"What's really nice is that they have named the long list now and I'm excited to be on it," she said.
"We had four young development players come into camp as well, who hadn't been exposed to the senior team before.
"Besides being a great experience for them in terms of what senior team training entails, they were great for morale.
"It really lifted their game and they learned a lot.
"We're expecting that selection will come around April, so it's a matter of cutting that list down from 16 to 12.
"I know every athlete in that 16 is working really hard.
"I'm a big one on not counting my chickens before they hatch, but I would like to be confident the coaches know who I am and would want to take me to Tokyo."
Mellberg, a former Australian diving team representative before breaking her neck in a trampoline accident at age 22 in 2013, is no stranger to representing her nation on the basketball court.
She made her Gliders debut at the 2017 Osaka Cup in Japan, with the Australians having earned a silver medal behind The Netherlands.
The 30-year-old had since represented the Gliders in overseas tournaments three or four times a year, from 2017 to 2019, in both Europe and Asia
The squad for Tokyo will be a new-look one, with just two previous Paralympians named in Amber Merritt and Sarah Vinci.
Mellberg is not the only Bendigonian pushing for Paralympic selection.
Jontee Brown was one of 20 male athletes to take part in a training camp for the men's team - the Rollers - which was held at the same time as the women's in Canberra.
With the same coach - Craig Friday - taking charge of both the Gliders and Rollers, Mellberg believed the Australians were developing a 'new and unique style' of play on the court.
"I think both teams have quite a lot of potential to make a really big difference and to raise some eyebrows at the Games," she said.
The Gliders last Paralympics medal was at the 2012 London Games when they claimed silver, having secured bronze at Beijing (2008) and silvers at Athens (2004) and Sydney (2000).
Ten women's teams will compete in Tokyo.
Split across two groups of five, they will play a round-robin in the preliminary stage to decide the top four placings in each group followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
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