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Wheelchair bound: The importance of feeling independent

Justin Levene is in a wheelchair. He is just 23 year old. He suffers from Bertolotti’s syndrome and he was injured 4 years ago after a surgery failed to fix his slip disc, breaking his spinal cord. 

After 3 years spent stuck in bed, Justin hopes to compete for the Paralympics Games. He started playing sport seven months ago, keeping it secret from his doctors. However, Justin looks happy in his special wheelchair.

He is training seven days a week at the Aspire National Training Centre in Stanmore.

He plays basketball with the Capital City Raiders team and five other different sports for disabled people in a wheelchair, such as: racing, discus, shot pot, javelin and archery.

Between training sessions and matches, he has hospital treatments and physiotherapy.

The wheelchair is just an extension of his body because his legs cannot move. 
When he plays, everything is through the sense of touch; feeling the ball and his body coming together to focus on where he wants the ball to go.

Every wheelchair has to be customised and each sport needs a different type. The wheelchair for basketball allows players to go faster and have more stability. It has extra protection against falling, including clicks and traps that help it stay in the right position. Also, it is designed to turn and spin around quicker than a normal wheelchair.

Having a sponsor is also really important because the wheelchairs are quite expensive, costing around £3000 - £4000 each.

 

Forget and smile

For Justin, playing is the only way to forget about the pain and smile. He is always in pain and being active and good in sport helps his mental health by feeling free and independent again. Being in a wheelchair can make one feel dependent on others and quite depressed about life.

“Running for the Paralympics in 2012 is an incredible feeling and an amazing achievement for disabled people like me,” says Justin.

However it depends on the sport you are competing for and how good you are. To be considered as having a chance, players have to be in the top 12 in the country to get in. 

Words & film by Stefania Barbaglio

Find out more about the Aspire National Training Centre, Wood Lane Stanmore
Middlesex HA7 4AP (020 8954 5759) www.aspire.org.uk

More articles by the author:

The luxury of fish and chips

Sound guides blind tennis players

Tailoring to a man’s needs

 

 

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