Wheelchair basketball is basically basketball played by people with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, paralysis, amputations and various other disabilities that restrict them from taking part in an able-bodied sport. Karthiki Patel decided to take up this strenuous sport back in 2014.
Karthiki met with a car accident about nine years ago leaving her with no choice but to use a wheelchair for mobility. The accident led to a dreadful spinal cord injury and she was left wheelchair-bound.
Just when it looked like hopes of the thirty-three-year-old basketball player were dashed, she found out about wheelchair basketball in the nick of time.
Despite realizing that wheelchair basketball is no piece of cake, Karthiki saw this as an opportunity to playing the sport again and on this wise, she decided to join the camp without having any sort of second thoughts. As expected, it took a while for her to learn the ropes of wheelchair basketball.
Unlike in regular basketball where a player is aware of where he/she wants to go inside the court, wheelchair basketball players not only have to move the wheelchair but also dribble the ball throughout the game at the same time. This requires athletic ability to maneuver around with a wheelchair and also have the ability to handle and shoot the ball on target.
In wheelchair basketball, players are expected to shoot the ball in a 10-foot-high basket sitting on their wheelchair, which is obviously harder compared to shooting the ball in the basket in the regular version of the game, Karthiki explained.
Speaking out about the challenges of playing wheelchair basketball, Karthiki said they are using basic model sports wheelchairs. She noted that the wheelchair has to be a perfect fit, and if that's not the case, players' mobility is largely affected and they become slower. Despite using a medium-sized wheelchair, Karthiki claims her wheelchair is about an inch loose.
While in advanced versions, it is highly recommended to use a tailor-made wheelchair, but much to their dismay they do not have enough funds to invest in those. Besides, very few of them are well-heeled, meaning; something like an advanced sports wheelchair is highly unlikely to be their first priority.
According to another woman player, F. Matilda, those state-of-the-art wheelchairs cost about INR 400,000, which converts to about $6199, but the one she is currently using is just INR 30,000 (about $465). Meanwhile, players from other countries they are expected to compete with, use advanced wheelchairs.
As if that weren't enough, lack of accessibility to gyms poses a completely different challenge for the players. Gyms in their region are usually not on the ground floor, and to make things worse, they do not have elevators or ramp for people with disabilities.
Looking on the bright side of things, Australian coach Bradley John "Brad" Ness, who is in the country to train them throughout the ongoing camp says the players' willingness to deal with any sort of bad situation, coupled with their yearning to enhance their technical skills will take them right at top of ladder. While it remains to be seen whether or not they will win in Bali, Bradley guarantees they will not give up without a fight. Wheelchair Basketball Federation's president Madhavi Latha claims the federation would have trained about 500 players across India in the last three years. Considering the challenges faced by the federation, this is nothing short of an accomplishment.
The Australian Consulate-General has come to the aid of the women's team and will be putting up money towards sponsoring expenses for the sporting competition scheduled to take place in Bali. They even brought Bradley, the Australia-based coach to Chennai, India in the bid to train the players.
The federation is now hoping to find sponsors to foot the bill for the men's team, Latha added. (Image: tpsdave / Pixabay)