Farnham’s Kylie Grimes helped Great Britain’s Paralympic gold-medal winning wheelchair rugby team get off to a winning start at the 2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Denmark this week.

GB opened their account on Monday with a thumping 66-43 pool stage win over Switzerland, followed by a tighter 55-52 win over Germany a day later.

They were due back in action against France on Wednesday evening, after the Herald went to press, and look well set to progress to the quarter-final round starting today (Thursday).

The Herald caught up with Kylie before catching her flight to Denmark, and the Paralympic star gave a typically candid assessment of the team’s prospects.

“We’re going to win,” she said. “We’re going to play our absolute best, we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. We’ve got very experienced players, and a lot of us in that squad were in Tokyo. So there’s no reason for us not to win. We’re going all out.”

Kylie added it’s been a “crazy busy” year for GB’s wheelchair rugby squad on the back of their Paralympic success last year.

“We haven’t really stopped and we’ve had a lot of tournaments, and a lot of training – to go from February this year, all the way through to October is crazy busy for us. We don’t normally do that.

“But we had to fit in two majors this year. We had the European Championships, where we won silver, and then we’ve got the Worlds now, so we just had to knuckle down and get on with it. But I won’t be sad when we’re done for this year and I can have a rest!”

As well as the majors, GB also took gold in the first ever low-point wheelchair rugby World Games in Alabama earlier this year – a tournament in which Kylie was named GB’s first ever female squad captain.

GB also won a silver in the Tri Nations tournament, losing to USA in the final by one point, also went to the Canada Cup, and most recently, the Quad Nations in Cardiff, where GB were dramatically beaten in double overtime by Canada to miss out on gold.

“All the games we now play against USA, Canada, Japan, there’s only ever one or two goals in it,” she continued. “So at the Worlds, it’s going to come down to one or two goals and who’s got the strength to go all the way because the World Champs are brutal.

“It’s eight games in eight days, which is the most we ever play. It’s relentless, and there are 12 teams which is the biggest tournament we ever have.”

Great Britain lost several key players to retirement after their Paralympics success in 2021, including veteran star and team captain Jim Roberts.

But Kylie – who at 34, and a veteran of three Paralympic Games, is now the second most experienced member of the GB squad – says this year’s results show the squad rebuild is going well, and there is an exciting new generation of emerging talent coming through the ranks.

“We lost a few of our main players and our captain after Tokyo, and have had to rebuild slightly and build a new rapport within the team. So, everything considered, we’re doing all right and we’re in a good place moving forward. We’ve won a lot of games this year, which is really good for confidence, and puts us in a strong place to go out there and take a medal, which we’ve never managed to do at Worlds.”

So is Kylie enjoying her new leadership role in the team?

“Yeah, I’m pretty easy-going. I’m a natural-born leader. I do take the lead generally on things, in life and in sport. I’m quite out there. I’m quite outspoken. I don’t mind taking the lead if others want to sit back. It doesn’t faze me.”

Kylie added more people are coming into the sport all the time on the back of GB’s recent successes, and she has enjoyed advising emerging talent.

“It’s definitely still building,” she said. “In Great Britain, we’ve now got ‘rugby fives’ as well now, which is another element of wheelchair rugby to get other people who have different disabilities or less impairment playing.

“It’s becoming a lot more inclusive and everybody can try it and have a go, which is really amazing.

“A lot more people know about wheelchair rugby now too, whereas a few years ago no one did, which is amazing too.”

As well as the rigours of matches and training, international competition also brings with it a lot of travelling – which Kylie says often isn’t as glamorous as you might think...

“I don’t mind the travelling, but it’s not like when you’re going on holiday. You generally fly and see a sports hall, fly and see a sports hall, so actually you could be anywhere in the world.

“But when we were at the World Games earlier in the year in Birmingham, Alabama, we did get to see a bit of Alabama, so that was really nice. And I also got to see a bit of Vancouver, which is lovely.

“But I’ve done quite a few long haul trips this year, so I’m glad the Worlds are only in Denmark!”

To follow Kylie and GB’s progress in Denmark, visit the website https://2022wrwc.com/