Sunday, July 22, 2012
Homebush Bay, New South Wales —On Friday, Wikinews sat down with first time Paraylympic Australian Gliders Leanne Del Toso, Sarah Vinci, and Amber Merritt, and second time Paralympic competitor Clare Nott at the Pullman Hotel following their 57–45 win against China at the Rollers & Gliders World Challenge in Sydney.
With South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius?’s inclusion in the 2012 Summer Olympics as one of the most talked-about Paralympic stories, the players were asked their feelings about his inclusion in the Olympic Games. As a group, they had mixed feelings. One one hand, they felt his inclusion was a positive thing for people with disabilities. On the other hand, they felt he could get a technological advantage from his blades. Del Toso said she could see that advantage based on her own use of splints for her legs.
Related to the Pistorius? story, the Gliders were asked if they would favour the inclusion of 5 point players, able-bodied competitors, competing in their sport at the Paralympics. As a group, they all said no, citing the numerous opportunities these players already had in Australia’s domestic competition and in state competitions. They felt their inclusion would deny opportunities to elite basketball players with disabilities to compete at the highest level.
Merrit discussed problems with classification and her swimming career. She started as a swimmer, but while she has a club foot, this was not severe enough to allow her to maintain a disability swimming classification: they said she should compete in able-bodied swimming as she could learn the style to swim correctly. She was unable to do so and had to forgo swimming. Following a talent identification program, she took up wheelchair basketball.
Del Toso came into wheelchair basketball after acquiring, at the age of nineteen, a degenerative disease that effects her nerves. She had previously played able-bodied basketball but had never considered playing wheelchair basketball until she participated in a talent identification event.
With money being at the heart of many people’s ability to take their game to the next level, the players were asked about their general financial situation in terms of the level of support they were receiving from Australian sport organizations. They all indicated they received adequate funding from Basketball Australia, the Australian Sports Commission, and the Australian Paralympic Committee that allowed them to travel to games around the world and live comfortably, which contrasts to some other countries and sports where there is not a comparable level of support.
When asked about the team’s body posture on the bench and their volume, the players indicated they put their hands under their armpits for warmth as the building is cold: it was not body language intended to convey any feeling about what was happening on the floor. The players also said their volume on the bench, while quiet, was effective and contrasted it to some teams who could be screechy, where volume is actually a sign of frustration with play.
The Gliders start their London Paralympic campaign on August 30 against Brazil at 18:30 London time, August 31 at 3:30 Sydney time.