Nepal: Driven by wheels of passion

04 December 2019
Nepal: Driven by wheels of passion

Players and coaches attending the workshop discuss skills and technique in one of the sessions. ©BIS

Sangita Majhi, a student of class 12, has been living with spinal cord injury for seven years. She was one of the 42 wheelchair basketball players and coaches from 13 clubs across Nepal who recently undertook a week-long training in wheelchair basketball. Organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross in collaboration with the Nepal Spinal Cord Injury Sports Association (NSCISA) in Kathmandu from 31 October to 6 November, 2019, the training included people of diverse ages and backgrounds.

Majhi was one of the 14 female participants. "I have gained a lot over the week-long workshop and I feel I am a much better player now," she said. Her love and passion for sports comes across when she speaks. In addition to wheelchair basketball, Majhi also competes in table-tennis and swimming.

Two international coaches ⁠— Paul Bowes from Canada and Mike Rosenkrantz from the United States ⁠— conducted the training. While Paul led his country to win three gold medals at the Paralympic Games of Sydney, Mike has dedicated himself to the empowerment of persons with disabilities through sports. They were pleased to see the energy and determination of the participants despite the constraints they face. "It would be great if they could get wheelchairs that are sport chairs," Paul said in an interview to a national daily. "But that hasn't stopped their drive. They were just out there playing, having fun and the wheelchairs disappeared."

Echoing this thought, Krishna Chaudhary, a member of the national wheelchair basketball team who serves as both the coach and captain at Wheelchair Sports Association Nepal, said, "the new players are much faster and technically more sound. But to keep improving, we need more exposure and competitions."

Andre Paquet, head of the ICRC mission in Kathmandu, announced that the ICRC is procuring 25 sports wheelchairs for the players to further contribute to developing wheelchair basketball in Nepal.

Barun Buda Magar, who recently turned 16 years old, was the youngest in the group. "This was my first such training. I now have a good theoretical and practical understanding of 'chest-pass,' 'dribbling', 'layup', 'offence/defence' and can't wait to apply my learnings in the future competitions I take part in," he said.

The week-long training, held at the accessible basketball court at Bouddha International School (BIS), Jorpati, was supported by local basketball coaches brought in by ENGAGE – a non-governmental organisation partnering with youths living with disabilities.