Madhavi Latha is the crusader for wheelchair basketball in India and her primary aim is to bring in as many players into the sport. As the president of the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI), she wants to raise awareness on the prejudices against differently-abled in the country. As a first step, WBFI is organising a free training camp for women U-23 in the city. The top performers will be shortlisted for the national team for the upcoming World Championship in 2019. In a candid chat with us, Madhavi, also a National Paralympic swimming champion, opens up about the need to promote wheelchair basketball and its benefits.
“Wheelchair basketball is a team sport that inculcates leadership skills and team spirit in differently-abled. It is a great way to raise self-esteem and increase the quality of life for the players. The sport also encourages communication between the players, improving one’s social skills. Becoming better in the sport helps increase confidence. In fact, it can offer so much more than you think. Not just the fitness aspect, the sport also opens great opportunities — if selected, the player will be part of the national squad and gets a chance to visit foreign countries,” says Madhavi.
The training camp will be held in Chennai from June 11 to 22 at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. The players will be trained by Suvarna Limaye and Lee Roy Simon. “We will shortlist around 25 players and train them for the World Championship qualifiers. So far, nine players (four from TN, two from Delhi, two from UP one from Jammu and Kashmir) have registered for the camp.
“We need more participants and I really hope to see more registration in the coming days. The training camp is open to young women who have disabilities related to lower limbs, both wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users. The participant may not be acquainted with basketball or any kind of sport — the only criterion is one should be able to propel a wheelchair on their own,” smiles Madhavi.
Explaining the rules of wheelchair basketball, she says, “The basic rules are very similar to stand-up or able-bodied basketball. The court dimensions, the height of the basket and the distance to the foul and three-point lines are the same measurements as in the game of stand-up basketball. Minor adjustments have been made to meet the needs of the game in a wheelchair. Also, the wheelchair (which is customised) is considered a part of the player’s body.”
Madhavi and her team aim to develop a strong contingent of wheelchair basketball players across states. “It’s disheartening when people aren’t realising the potential of the sport. It’s a dynamic and energetic sport for the differently-abled,” she sums up.