Winnipeg wheelchair basketball athlete, coach gear up for Paralympics

From the moment Bethany Johnson tried wheelchair basketball, she was obsessed.

“I was trying to be as fast as everybody that had played for years,” Johnson said.

Nine years later, she’s training with the Canadian national team, aiming to compete in Paris at the Paralympics this summer.

“It’s so much fun because you can learn something new every day. I’m still working on a lot of stuff. I’m a rookie with this team so I’ve got a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to think about. Learning as quick as I can,” Johnson said.

The 22-year-old Winnipegger broke her hip in 2014. She had surgery but was still left with permanent damage, limiting her mobility and strength.

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A supportive physiotherapist and physical education teacher encouraged her to try wheelchair basketball and she’s never looked back.

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“It’s a really fun sport,” Johnson said.

The team’s head coach Michele Sung believes Johnson’s future is bright.

“She’s super open-minded. She’s at that stage in her career where she is just a sponge. She wants to learn how to play the best in her position,” Sung said.

Sung also has a strong connection to Winnipeg. She’s the head basketball coach at the University of Manitoba but is spending her summer with this Paralympic team.

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“They’re mature. They have a ton of experience,” Sung said. “It’s me and them working together to use our expertise on both sides of it. It’s been fun. They’re resilient and they work really hard.”

Final roster decisions will be made at the team’s next camp in Ottawa.

After that, they’re off to the United Kingdom for exhibition games, returning to Quebec City for another camp and then it’s time for the games.

“It’s been nice to get some international exposure before going to such a big event like that,” Johnson said. “It’s a little bit daunting but the girls have been really supportive with my development and they’re always working to teach me stuff.”

All this effort in hopes of returning from the Paralympics with a medal.


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