‘I hope there's more focus on wheelchair basketball so little kids who are either newly disabled, or have been disabled their whole lives, can understand how great it is’ – Portsmouth’s Jade Atkin

When Portsmouth's Jade Atkin plays wheelchair basketball, she has a freedom like no other. And she is hoping that feelgood factor will carry her on to the podium in Birmingham.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 8:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 8:26 am

The 20-year-old has made her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham and is excited to give the inclusive nature of the sport a spotlight for the next generation.

Wheelchair Basketball has debuted at the Commonwealth Games in a new 3x3 half-court format compared to the usual 5v5, and Atkin is part of Team England's eight-strong squad.

It was one of eight sports with parasport competitions - the others are athletics, swimming, cycling, bowls, powerlifting, table tennis and triathlon.

Portsmouth's Jade Atkins in action during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

England face Scotland later today in the third/fourth place play-off - a medal for the winners only.

Atkin, who already has an international medal of each colour to her name, is ready to highlight the sport's biggest strength.

‘When we're on court, we're all equal,’ she said.

‘When we're in our day-to-day life we come across lots of hardships and lots of things that make us unequal to other people. And in the whole environment of athletes, we all have the same mindsets and the same goal.

‘There's a mutual respect, I think we all have this mindset and that's what makes me love team sports.

‘When we do things on court or off court, we know that we're doing them for the rest of the team.

‘I hope that there's more focus on wheelchair basketball so little kids who are either newly disabled, or have been disabled their whole lives, can see the sport and understand how great it is.

‘To then feel more accepting within themselves and more confident to try it out.’

Atkin has been selected as a member of Aldi’s Rising Stars, a programme that supports 20 young athletes each year by providing a financial award to help with training and competition costs, while also delivering personal development opportunities to many athletes through workshop sessions.

Each year, athletes are nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies of more than 60 sports based on set criteria.

The Rising Stars athletes will be receiving financial support through Aldi, as well as a monthly food voucher, to fuel them through training, competitions and to future Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Atkin began playing wheelchair basketball for fun with her sister Adele before being diagnosed with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, and both sisters went on to compete at international level.

The Team England athlete was part of squads to win gold and bronze at U24 European and U25 World Junior Championships. She also won silver in her senior GB bow at the 2021 European Championships.

Although Adele no longer competes at international level, Atkin is thrilled she can continue to share her basketball journey with her family and receive their support in Birmingham this summer.

She said: ‘My sister used to play and at that time I didn’t have a disability, so I started playing with her because I wanted to just play with her - she couldn’t run so it was the only way I could.

‘And then once I got into it, I realised it was really fun and I got really competitive at it and I eventually I found out that I was disabled and so got classified.

‘Really quickly we found a rule of not talking about basketball in the car because it will just lead to arguments.

‘She’s a different position to me so I think it helped me more to understand the position that she plays, and we have learnt from each other.

‘I know she will be supporting me. I know either way that she’s got my back and supporting me and cheering me on.

‘She wants me to win, so it’s cute to get little messages from the sideline from her.’

*Aldi is the Official Supermarket Partner of Team GB and ParalympicsGB and have partnered with Team GB since 2015, ParalympicsGB since 2022 and will be supporting them through to Paris 2024