Jade Atkin is highlighting the inclusivity of wheelchair basketball

·4-min read
Jade Atkin will compete as part of Team England at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

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

The 20-year-old will make 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 will debut 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.

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

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Atkin hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

Atkin is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing her to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science, and medical support.

She said: "When we're on court, we're all equal. 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 and wanting to get to this place that we all work hard to.

"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 and little kids who are either newly disabled or have been disabled their whole lives, I hope they can see the sport and understand how great the sport is.

"To then feel more accepting within themselves and more confident to kind of try out a sport that they can try out."

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Atkin is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.

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 and won silver in her senior GB bow at the 2021 European Championships.

Although her sister 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 play with her.

"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 it's helped us both seen the positions we were in and learnt from each other more than anything.

"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, she's spoken to me about it so it's cute to get little messages from the sideline from her."

National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.

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