I came to wheelchair basketball late – I was 51. I’ve always been sporty, always fit, and have played lots of sports – football, netball, hockey, tennis, badminton, squash, you name it! But I’ve been a cancer patient since 2001, and have had a lot of pretty heavy surgery, most recently in 2011. That last operation nearly did for me in fact, and it’s been life-changing in a number of ways. After a long and difficult convalescence, I finally retired from work at the Open University in 2012 and with massively reduced mobility, and hindered by other effects and fatigue, I’d been putting off ‘confronting’ the thought that my previous very active, sporting life was over.
Then we ended up at the Olympics and the Paralympics, and we stumbled into a wheelchair basketball session where I had a lightbulb moment! I thought ‘Oh wow! THIS is something I could DO!’, so I used the Paralympics website, found a local club, tried it, and haven’t looked back since. It’s got all the elements that I’ve always loved about sport – that feeling of chasing, kicking, catching or chucking a ball; that lovely feeling when the ball really zings, or the team really clicks; the competition; the hard work; the crack with team mates.
Playing basketball – oddly one of the few ball games I HADN’T played as a running game, just makes me happy. I can’t really explain it, but playing definitely makes my smile muscles ache!
I love playing with the Eastern Blue Stars. The experienced players in the club are great mentors, not only in their skills and tactics, but in their whole ethos. The training and the team-spirit are very ‘affirmative’. I wouldn’t do a 140-mile round trip to train if it weren’t so enjoyable and productive. I love the Women’s League, too. It’s seriously competitive, but seems to contain a unique element of fairness and team spirit. I’ve really enjoyed the training camps before the tournament weekends, too.
Top moment? I was absolutely shocked and knocked out, to discover that I’d been selected in a league-wide vote to represent the East Team in the 2016 WBA showcase AllStars match that took place in Nottingham in February 2016. Playing alongside team mates and opposition who were almost all internationals (and probably everyone who were going to Rio), was such a buzz! I’ll never forget that!