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Amoghavajra lives in Ipswich, in the east of England, where he was until recently the centre Chair. A wheelchair-user, he is an International Wheelchair Basketball Federation ‘classifier’ and tutor. He writes of his involvement in the Paralympics:
“As the Paralympics near their crescendo in Rio de Janeiro, it is the turn of athletes with a disability to take the world stage and display their physical prowess and skill. The other day I wheeled into my local gym and the trainer was talking with sheer amazement at the table tennis player he saw in competition in the Paralympics, who had no arms!
I have been lucky to be at the last two Paralympics, in London and Beijing, working as a classifier in wheelchair basketball. Classifiers grade the players according to their level of disability, and then through a points system, create a ‘level playing field’ for them - so to speak!
Although not invited to Rio I was at the European and African qualifying tournaments. The African tournament was held in Algiers in November 2015, with nations from all over Africa attending. In fact there were two tournaments: one for men and, for the first time ever on African soil, one for women. It was very gratifying to be at this groundbreaking event, seeing African women compete for the first time to attend a paralympics for wheelchair basketball. We had women from South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria.
So why is a Buddhist involved in sport? Isn’t it violent and competitive? Sport can be rather like this, but you will not get very far if you don’t learn to channel these emotions skilfully through training. Often a close competition is lost when emotions get the better of the player.
Disability can be very socially isolating; you can’t go where your friends go. When illness takes some of your health away life can get very frightening. Through playing basketball I’ve seen people make friends and grow in confidence. I’ve seen their world open out and change. I’ve seen my world open out, I’ve made friends all over the world and developed fearlessness through playing sport. At the heart of the Paralympics there is this wish to change lives and worlds for the better.
This is why I’m involved in Paralympic sport. Besides it is so much fun!”