It’s a measure of South African wheelchair basketball star Shane Williams’s character when he describes the amputation of his legs at the age of two as “a decision that’s probably every parent’s nightmare, but maybe a blessing for me”.
Described by his teammates as the player who always lifts everyone’s spirits, Williams chooses to reflect positively on how his life changed when he was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia, an infection in the bloodstream.
“It’s every parent’s nightmare to give the go-ahead to amputate your child’s legs, but with that came a lot of achievements for me,” he recalls. “I don’t know what kind of person I would’ve been if I had legs. I’m very thankful for who I am now and the support of my parents.”
The decision also led to his discovery of wheelchair basketball as a teen. He quickly rose through the ranks from club level to obtaining Western Province colours while competing in the prestigious Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge, until he finally represented his country.
“As a person with a disability, I have never thought of myself as any different to an able-bodied person,” Williams says. “I’ve shown myself that I can achieve my dreams and goals even though my circumstances are different. It’s all about that belief.”
When he first watched wheelchair basketball, he wasn’t impressed, he recalls. “I was about 14 or 15 years old, and my friends were begging me to try it, but I was making fun of the guys. I loved wheelchair racing more than anything. But as soon as I got on the court, the love grew.
“Representing my country for the first time was amazing. It was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Just to wear that protea on my chest was such an honour. It’s a humbling experience, but it’s also made me feel I can achieve more in the sport,” he says.
Williams considers the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge to be the premier provincial competition in the local game and a key component to his growth. In November, the competition celebrated its 20th year with a live broadcast of the finals.
“The Vodacom Challenge is an amazing competition,” Williams concludes. “Vodacom has been part of wheelchair basketball for so long and it has certainly helped us players grow in the sport.”
The 2019 winners of the Under-23 Men’s and Women’s final were the North West Stinging Bees. Congratulations to the team!