Written by Jack Simons for CNN
On Wednesday night the entire world watched as the sport of wheelchair basketball catapulted to the big screen at the Olympic Park. The proceedings captivated the world watching. The concept of a “neutral” athlete triumphing against competition of his or her peers was a remarkable breakthrough for the sport.
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It was a win for us, the three United States Paralympic athletes, as well as for the fans who joined us from the moment we took the court and cheered us on.
Day in and day out I hear how bad times make us push harder to show them what they are missing. We’ve had our setbacks. Trust me, many of you reading this are experiencing setbacks too. With the medals already won, and a new and improved wheelchair, the journey to success continues.
Brienna Spears, Bethany Waggoner and Libby Jaroma celebrate after beating France on Wednesday. Credit: EPA/BRIAN
To write my books about young people with disabilities and their challenges, I meet people all over the world who have made physical and mental changes, just to be the best that they can be. Sometimes it can be difficult for someone to change their minds or strategies to ensure that they can regain and achieve what they once had.
That’s why wheelchair basketball is such a good sport. It teaches both the athlete and the spectator how to overcome adversity to achieve what is possible. It also champions the next generation of Paralympians.
You don’t have to be a wheelchair athlete or a disability athlete to watch wheelchair basketball. My readers and readers of disability magazines, radio or television will appreciate it as well. Every aspect of the sport, from the players to the officials to the equipment that they use, are presented beautifully.
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And you can see how these athletes succeed, as well as what challenges they overcome. I believe wheelchair basketball is one of the more under-appreciated sporting games, despite its general popularity.
But, I can’t wait for the Paralympics to make another breakthrough by attracting a bigger audience.
With the likes of LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Rachel Botsman as ambassadors, it’s time for a new generation of disability athletes to speak about their experiences in the stands.