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Wheelchair basketball experience for Sport students

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Sport National Diploma students had a chance to try out a new sport when wheelchair basketball supremo Gordon Perry visited the college this week. Gordon won the first London Wheelchair marathon in 1983 but his first love has always been basketball. He played for Great Britain from 1982 to 1991, has coached the national Junior and Women’s teams and has worked as the National Development Manager for Wheelchair Basketball.

“The sport developed in the 1940s as part of a post-WW2 rehabilitation programme in the United States,” he explains. “It really took off in the late 1970s / early 1980s with the development of lightweight materials in the aerospace industry.”

Great Britain is now 8th in the world (women’s team) and 13th (men). Great Britain is playing in the 2010 World Championships in Birmingham and gearing up for the 2012 Paralympics.

Gordon now runs a company which visits schools and colleges around the country, introducing able-bodied young people to the sport. “We’re hoping to develop more mixed teams,” he explains. “There is already a points system which grades wheelchair competitors according to their level of disability. The fewer the points, the greater the level.”

After a few nervous spins around the hall (the wheels on sporting wheelchairs are at an angle – between 8 and 13 degrees from the vertical), the students began to gain confidence. The angled wheels allow for tight turning circles, but reduced stability: fortunately there is a small wheel at the back to prevent tipping.

The day ended with basketball matches: the net is at the same height as for able-bodied basketball. All the students enjoyed an eye-opening and challenging experience, but, as Gordon commented, could look forward to some rather aching arm muscles the following morning!