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First wheelchair basketball workshop in Goa finds many fans, great official support

Wheelchair basketball is going places and is fast becoming one of India's most popular para sports. This is thanks to the great push given by the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI). Last week, the WBFI held it's first workshop in Manipur capital, Imphal. This week, a camp was held in Goa, where over 16 aspiring players turned up.

The two-day residential camp at Taleigao was WBFI's first venture in the state and was held with the support of the Wheelchair Association of Goa (WAG) and the Goa government.

From wheelchairs to accommodation to food, the WAG was there to provide full support.

What was overwhelming for organisers and players was the presence of J Ashok Kumar, Goa Sports Secretary. Kumar was present for the opening and closing ceremonies and during the workshop too.

80% of the participants have not attempted wheelchair basketball or any other para sports before, so this was a new experience for them. They put up a remarkable show, full of excitement and enthusiasm. The government has promised to provide players with more wheelchairs and even a stadium for practice in the coming months. - Kalyani Rajaraman, General Secretary, WBFI

Two coaches were flown down to Goa to train the players. They were Lee Roy Simon from Bengaluru and Luiz George from Mumbai. The stadium where the workshop was held was made accessible and disabled-friendly to make it easier for participants.

The number of participants was lower as compared to other states. The organisers were expecting 25, but only 16 turned up. A major reason is that most wheelchair users live in rural Goa and were unaware of the camp. "They also find it difficult to get to the venue", said Rajaraman. "We hope for better participation from wheelchair users across Goa the next time as wheelchair basketball is a great rehabilitation sport."

Of the 16 who took part, 10 have been chosen for the upcoming 5th National Wheelchair Basketball Championship 2018 at Erode in Tamil Nadu. Doing well here guarantees them a spot in the India team for the Asian Championships in Thailand.

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