Wheelchair basketball: 'It's by far the most fun you can have on wheels' - Paralympics - Olympics - The Independent

Wheelchair basketball: 'It's by far the most fun you can have on wheels'

 

Which way is he going to go this time? I look left, 15-year-old Jim Palmer goes right and by the time I've spun around in my borrowed £3,000 sports wheelchair he's scoring an easy lay-up.

Welcome to the world of wheelchair basketball. I once spent a day driving classic Ferraris and Formula Ford racing cars – they have nothing on this. Despite ending the session panting with exhaustion after trying (and largely failing) to keep up with my young opponent, I can honestly say that this is by far the most fun you can have on wheels.

It should be said that Jim – who could easily be a future face of the sport – is already an international at under-21 level. He is potentially a prospect for Rio 2016 and if not, certainly the next Paralympics, wherever that may be.

I've met him and coach Roy Carter at the Mile End Leisure Centre, within spitting distance of the Olympic Park, where the London Titans wheelchair basketball club train and play.

Unlike, say, murderball, which was rechristened wheelchair rugby even though its rules bear little relation to the able bodied counterpart, there's not much that anyone who has followed the NBA in America will find unusual in wheelchair basketball.

The game is played on the same sort of court, the baskets are the same height, the scoring is identical, so are the timings. The foul rules are a little different but that's about it. Even then, the philosophy behind those rules is similar – wheelchair basketball is officially non-contact. In reality, your chair's going to get bumped and clattered into. Quite a bit.

What is unique is the disability points classification system which demands that the scores for the five players on court at any one time add up to no more than 14. An able bodied player (at some clubs there are a few although they can't compete internationally) is classed as a five and a player's points reduce as his or her impairments increase. Jim, who is paralysed below the chest, gets a one, for example. That makes him an even more useful addition to any team given his amazing skill level.

Bob, Jim's Dad, is a club level classifier (and the club mechanic) and there is some debate about where I should sit on the scale before he settles on three points. I get a half a point for my right foot, which is paralysed and drops dead when I'm not using a caliper. My surgically repaired shoulder gets me another: It's just about functional for mundane tasks but it's not long before I realise pain and stiffness is going to rule out catching or shooting above my head with it.

When it comes to taking free throws – probably the weakest part of my game – I lean back in the chair and hurl one handed. The fact that I can hardly bend (I use a special piece of equipment to help me get socks on) takes another point off. The classification is not strictly medical, it's functional, based on how you perform in a game situation. I'm perhaps a three and a half really.

As I continue to recover from the road accident that got me here, that may go up: legs, even weak, nerve-damaged ones like mine, help you balance in the chair.

Those chairs are a dream. Even though my pace is like a proverbial tortoise matched against a couple of cheetahs when compared with Jim and Roy, using one is a world away from the clunky NHS wheelchair I have at home.

And by the end of the evening I even manage to put Jim off a shot or two. A couple of times. Well, maybe once.

I know I've been through a workout when the pain sets in a couple of hours later. It isn't easy to sleep, although that could be due to adrenaline released by the sheer joy of playing. The session has worked out pretty much every muscle, including several which I didn't realise were being worked.

I'd like to give it another shot. But I'd also like to watch it again too and I've talked to several people who feel the same way. They were simply gushing about Great Britain's match against Germany, a thriller which our rivals only won in extra-time (and doesn't that feel familiar).

Sadly at the end of the week wheelchair basketball could disappear from our screens for the next four years.

In a multichannel world where you can even follow American Major League Lacrosse, that's sad. When we have taxpayer-funded public service broadcasters like the BBC, it's almost criminal. Maybe Channel 4, which has been showing the way this week, can keep the flame that's been lit within me and so many others this week from being extinguished?

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week