Another Day in Paradise for GB Chair Basketball Player Choudhry
Ghazain Choudhry is one of the highest scoring players in European chair basketball leagues today. He sums up his season in the demanding Italian league, the future in Australia and his call-up to the GB squad for the Paralympic World Cup in May.
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Cutting an energetic silhouette into the Sardinia morning, Ghazain Choudhry begins his daily regime, with all his attention focused into keeping his chair pointing uphill. It seems a waste of a Mediterranean day, but the Great British chair basketball athlete has now found balance in his game that he refuses to let slip through his grasp.
“This was my first real foray into the professional leagues,” says Choudhry. “Back in the UK, the setup is still behind places like these. I could say that I came here to prove I could make a career out of it, but the scenery has also done my mind the world of good. Of course, my scoring record and the all-star appearance helps,” he laughs.
Indeed, Ghazain Choudhry’s appearance in the Italian all-stars this past March is just another notch to add to a blossoming and glittering career record that began in North London. During his time growing up in Ealing, a then-teenage Choudhry was dicing academic studies with top scorer awards, and European and World titles at international level. Anyone could understand the need for a departure to new shores, if only to keep one’s feet on the ground.
“Well, there is that,” he ponders in a half-agreement. “When you enter a sport like this, you probably don’t really appreciate the challenge ahead. I’m glad I came into contact with a couple of coaches who taught me the different considerations for a chair athlete. We’ve got things we don’t do and things we have to be able to do like no one else. It’s a completely different discipline.”
Choudhry is obviously embracing the discipline side of the game here out in Sardinia like never before. Isolated from his home, he has nothing to do everything but train, play and train harder in a domestic league that is widely considered to set the bar of national wheelchair basketball. The on-court demands contrast sharply with the off-court relaxation: there are no private hotel MVP parties and no distractions. The closest thing to switching off for the day involves grasping his way around town, with his team-mates. A muttering of “I love it” is the only confirmation he needs to offer as we make our way to a mid-day gym session.
“Back in London, I was supported well. When you’re 10, 11…12 years old and dealing with chemotherapy…you need people to make something of it for you. And then all of a sudden you’ve got something to prove, something to reward their faith”. And thus, in the shirts of Milton Keynes and Great Britain, Ghazain proceeded to continually break all scoring records on court. It wasn’t long before he was forced to look for a challenge elsewhere. He had set out to win in the most direct way possible: post-up the numbers. Having done that and been reserved for the 2008 Paralympics presented a new oversight for the 23 year old.
“I felt like I disagreed with the coach. But then I saw things from his perspective. And now, there’s this song I heard a few weeks back […] about old wars, winning and losing: they don’t matter that much anymore.”
Does he see anything beyond the playing career? “I’m trying to lead out on court by thinking about the team, and even when I’m off court I feel pretty blessed everyday that I can wake up with a purpose, given all the odds. If I can be an inspiration to others to wake up, then that’s more than good enough for me to keep at it.”
Changing his game has obviously been recognized back in the UK. Choudhry has cause to train harder, preparing himself for juggling a move to the Australian league team Adelaide Thunder with a confirmed call-up to the GB squad at the Paralympic World Cup in May. A return to cosmopolitan Manchester already has the media sources calling for the seasoned scorer to field questions on his upbringing as a Karachi-born UK talisman. Choudhry summed it up in regimented fashion: “It’s a fresh challenge. I love it”.