There is something special about the being first of something. First man to walk on the moon. First solo transatlantic flight. First player to hit 60 home runs in one season. First under 25 wheelchair basketball world champion. I'm no Neil Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh, or Babe Ruth but as of last Friday I am one of 12 people who can lay claim to that last accomplishment. I'm still pinching myself.
I'm often asked about how wheelchair basketball differs from its standup counterpart. I usually emphasize their similarities- in theory they are almost the same game. 10 foot hoop, regulation sized court and ball, etc. The only actual difference is you are allowed 2 pushes for every dribble and there is no double-dribble. But in actuality they are completely different games.
Wheelchair basketball is extremely defensive- due to the fact that you can physically stop someone from moving. Thus a full court press is ten times more effective. This adds a whole layer of strategy to the game. It also means you must work together even more. Pic and rolls are extremely effective. It is much harder for one player to simply dominate without working together as a team.
Since our hands are otherwise occupied- wheelchair basketball features a lot more talking than standup. No hand gestures or motions for us.
Lastly, there is no equivalent of the NBA for wheelchair basketball. No promise of fame, money, glory. My gold medal game was the most people I've ever played in front of and it featured a crowd of maybe 150 people. You don't play wheelchair basketball to become a superstar- you play because you truly love the game. And that I do. There is no sport I'd rather play. If you offered me the chance to walk tomorrow- I'd turn it down. It would mean giving up the sport I love. I hope to continue as long as I can- maybe someday if I keep working hard all the way to the Paralympics. But if not- I'll still always be part of a team that made history. The USA is the first team to win an Under 25 Women's Wheelchair Basketball World Championship. It might not have made headlines at ESPN, but I'll take it.
Also, I want to end this post by thanking my awesome roommates. They made my return to DC decidedly less gloomy by surprising me with a little welcome back/congratulations party. Could my summer get any sweeter?