WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL STAR SETS HER SIGHTS ON HOME GAMES GLORY
3×3 wheelchair basketball will make its Commonwealth Games debut at Birmingham 2022, with the event being played at Smithfield in the heart of the city centre. And eager to compete is local star Siobhan Fitzpatrick, who spoke to us about her hopes for more people to be inspired to try wheelchair basketball, once they see it played on a global stage.
Siobhan, who is 23 and from Coventry, began shooting hoops at the age of 11 after giving it a try at a Playground to Podium programme, a national initiative to get more young disabled people playing sport. Siobhan was instantly drawn to playing wheelchair basketball and she joined her local club as a means of enjoying regular exercise and a new hobby.
But what she didn’t expect was that her passion for the game would propel her into a competitive and successful career that would see her travelling the world…
“My love for wheelchair basketball has grown throughout my career. When I first started playing, it was the social aspect that did it for me. I just loved playing a sport with like-minded people who looked like me and shared similar experiences. For the first time, I felt like I was in an environment where I didn’t struggle amongst my peers and it provided a great opportunity to make new friends.
“I played in my first competitive tournament at the Lord’s Taverners’ National Junior Championships, which is still one of my favourite memories. It was so much fun to be competing with all my friends for the first time. We didn’t even medal, but after that, West Midlands went on to be the best junior team in the UK.
“Now, over ten years later, I love that the game gives me the opportunity to travel the world, and the fact that we are being so successful is a bonus! I think my proudest achievement so far is when I represented Great Britain at the World Championships in Hamburg in 2018. This was the first time we’d ever reached a world championship final and we went on to win the silver medal!
Whilst competing at a home games would mean the world to Siobhan, it’s the opportunity to have wheelchair basketball played on a global stage that is most important to her:
“It’s phenomenal that the sport will be competing at the Games for the first time. It’s so important for wheelchair basketball to be given a platform in a multi-sport competition, especially to show younger people that it’s something they could get into. I want kids who use wheelchairs to be able to relate to our team, and even look up to us.
“I get so excited just thinking about the prospect of playing at a home Games, especially as I’ll be able to get to the venue so quickly from home! My parents always come to watch my games, but it’ll be great to have other relatives and my old school friends join them too, as they don’t usually get the opportunity. Plus, I’m really looking forward to hearing all of those good old Brummie accents in the crowd! The buzz from them alone will be an experience to remember.”
The 3×3 format of wheelchair basketball, a faster paced version of the game, will be played at Birmingham 2022, so Siobhan will soon be turning her attention to training her mind and body for this different version:
“I’m now focussing on getting used to playing the game in a different format. We often play 3×3 in training sessions, but I’ve not played it in a competitive nature before. Training will be about adapting to the game, understanding the new tactics and adjusting to playing with different people – as I’ll likely be competing against my usual teammates at Birmingham 2022!
Siobhan Fitzpatrick features in Birmingham 2022’s latest campaign, joined by elite athletes who each have an association with the West Midlands.