Wheelchair basketball has given these men the will to chase their dreams
For Oliver D’Souza the attraction in wheelchair basketball lay in the fact that it was so different from the way in which regular basketball is played.
“Wheelchair basketball is similar to the basketball that Michael Jordan played, but here the players off the field are as important, if not more, than the player with the ball. Also, they have to master the sports wheelchairs they are sitting on and as someone who has been using it since 2005, I can tell you it is no easy task. It takes a lot of practice, skill and strength.”
All of which he will get plenty of opportunity to display at the 5th National Wheelchair Basketball Championship, currently on in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Over 20 teams from across India have gathered at the SDATN Basketball Stadium.
This is Oliver’s first national event and he is playing for Goa. There is excitement evident in his voice when he talks about the planning involved in traveling with two types of wheelchairs – one for regular use and the other on the court.
He has come a long way from the feeling of hopelessness that had enveloped his life for four years after he was left disabled in a fall in 2005.
A promising football player, Oliver became a paraplegic after he fell through the roof while retrieving a ball.
It was while he was undergoing rehabilitation at the Paraplegic Foundation in Mumbai that Oliver was introduced to wheelchair basketball thanks to the NGO Nina Foundation, that supports spinal cord injury victims.
He got together with some other enthusiasts, including Mohammed Imran, who is paralyzed from the waist down due to multiple sclerosis.
Like Oliver, Imran is also representing Goa at the national championships and is eager to prove himself on the court.
“I am very happy to have got such a wonderful opportunity”, he says. “So far we played for ourselves. Now we can prove to others that we can fight too. The best part is that in wheelchair basketball, we get to use our entire body while playing the game. All that energy we have within us has an outlet”.
Along with Oliver and Imran, two other members of Nina Foundation have been selected for the nationals, Sudhanshu Patel and Mohammed Hadis. A remarkable achievement, one that Dr Ketna Mehta, Founder, Nina Foundation, says was enabled thanks to “kind donors who gave 10 basketball wheelchairs and the University of Mumbai for permission to use their indoor basketball court”.
The story of these men is an example of the transformative power of sports, and a remarkable tribute to their perseverance and determination.
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