Captain Kartiki Patel
Captain Kartiki Patel

Although, the patriotic narrative of representing India in Wheelchair Basketball sound good in theory, but they rarely do much to help the other person feel better.

Instead, it often minimises the other person’s pain and does little to connect with how they are feeling. In the end, all these players feel that they need empathy and not sympathy which keeps them on par with the able athletes.

Now in a first, the women’s wheelchair Indian basketball team players have donned the Indian colours and are set to fly to Thailand for the Asian Oceanic Zonal championship which is also the qualifying contest for the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.

The tournament will be held in Pattaya, Thailand from Nov 27-Dec 8. Wheelchair basketball as a sport is in a nascent stage in India, with the official Indian Wheelchair Basketball Federation (WBFI) formed just over four years ago.

Though the sport has been popular among the veterans of armed forces, challenges encountered while pursuing it are many. The severe lack of wheelchair accessibility during trials or camps and creating awareness about the sport among persons with disabilities have been WBFI’s main concerns.

Other challenges relating to accommodation, transportation and restrooms constantly hinder the players from practising or travelling for trials or camps. Catching flights are also difficult, as most planes only accommodate 4-5 wheelchair users, forcing the team to take multiple flights.

Even the wheelchairs are not on par with international standards due to the lack of manufacturers of sports wheelchairs in India.

Despite this, the team has persisted against all odds and achieved significant progress, even within their limited means. They play hard, give no quarter and are constantly working to improve their skills.

“Many people with disabilities are stuck at home, thinking they can’t live a normal life. But I think that people like me are even better than normal people as we can do many things that they can’t.

Nothing is impossible for us. Girls who want to study, play or do anything should be supported by their families,” says Mumbai's Kartiki Patel, the team captain. “We do need to have good equipment as these are as good as our legs. We do also need to improve on our skills,” she says.

The power is with them!

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