'This sport is my life' - Flynn makes Paralympic squad

Wheelchair rugby player Kieran Flynn hopes the sacrifices he has made can pay dividends at the Paris Paralympics.

The Great Britain team won a historic gold medal in Tokyo – the first British medal in the sport, also known as Murderball - and are aiming to retain their title in Paris later this summer with Flynn named on Monday as part of the squad.

"Every day there are sacrifices to be the best you can, but being selected is the justification for it in my eyes and I want to do my family and friends proud in Paris," he told BBC Sport.

"This sport is my life and every day I am trying to be the best athlete I can be. Whether that is giving my all at a gym session, doing the on-court work to try to make our line-ups better, doing the video analysis at home or just eating right, I am constantly evolving as an athlete.

"There is a pressure to retain the Paralympic title but as a team we are very good at dealing with that. If we play to our abilities, we have a good chance but six or seven of the eight teams in Paris can win gold."

Ryan Cowling, Stuart Robinson and Ayaz Bhuta celebrate winning gold in Tokyo

Flynn is one of five Paralympic debutants named alongside seven players who were part of the victorious 2021 squad that beat the USA 54-49 in the final, including Gavin Walker, the Tokyo vice-captain and captain this time, Aaron Phipps, Stuart Robinson and Jonny Coggan, who will be competing at his sixth Games.

The Nantwich man captained the GB talent squad in the build-up to Tokyo and joined the elite squad in late 2021.

Since then, he has represented GB at world and European championships and was recently voted the best player in his 2.0 class at the Canada Cup, the last international tournament before the Paris competition, which takes place from 29 August-2 September.

The 31-year-old, who is one of four Leicester Tigers players in the squad, came to Para-sport after sustaining a spinal injury while playing for his local rugby club in 2013 and says that he never thought after his accident that he would get to this point.

"I spent three weeks in intensive care, not really understanding what was going on, only that I couldn’t feel my legs and I couldn’t move my arms or even cough to clear my lungs without the help of a machine," he said.

"I ballooned up to 21 stone and probably suffered depression even though I didn’t realise it at the time.

"When I got transferred to the spinal injuries centre at Oswestry, Tony Stackhouse, who had played for Great Britain in Sydney and Athens, came in and told me that I should try wheelchair rugby.

"Josie Pearson, who played for GB before winning athletics gold at London 2012, also spoke to me and seeing what an impact sport had on her life inspired me.

"There were times when I broke down with family and the frustrations came out but having figures around me like my mum, grandparents and friends helped.

"Then coming into a sport where there are so many others in a similar situation, but further down the line, who you can tap into them for knowledge and help, has helped me as well.

"It has been a crazy journey, but you learn so much about yourself."

Squad: Jonathan Coggan, Ollie Mangion, Aaron Phipps, David Ross (London WRC), Nick Cummins, Kieran Flynn, Jamie Stead, Gavin Walker (Leicester Tigers WRC), Dan Kellett, Stuart Robinson (West Coast WRC), Jack Smith (North East Bulls WRC), Tyler Walker (Cheltenham Tigers).