A KEEN sportsman left paralysed after undergoing spinal surgery has battled his way to a place in an elite wheelchair basketball squad.
Steven Ross, 22, was called up to represent Great Britain at the Under 23 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Turkey this week.
He is hoping to shine on the international stage, ensure his team comes home with a medal – and consign some of the dark days he has endured to the past.
He said: “Being called up to represent Great Britain is great. It’s something I’ve worked really hard for and it makes all the times you miss out on family things or being with your friends worthwhile.”
The sports enthusiast played Sunday league football until he developed a spinal tumour and became paralysed at the age of 14.
While his able-bodied chums continued to play sports, he turned to the growing sport of wheelchair basketball and quickly become a star player for the Lothian Phoenix side.
The rough and tumble sport still has some way to go until it matches the popularity it enjoys in other countries.
Steven said: “In Italy, Spain, Germany and Turkey, they get really good crowds in. It’s like a full-time job out there and where you want to play.
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing and seem to be doing well with it.
“My family are really supportive of me. They always came to every Sunday league football match I played and now they’re the same with wheelchair basketball. They really want me to succeed.”
Wheelchair basketball follows most of the rules and scoring of basketball, with a ten-foot basketball hoop and standard basketball court.
Players use specially modified chairs which are lighter and more agile than conventional chairs so they can move more freely around the court.
Point guard Steven, from Baberton Mains, played a pivotal role in Great Britain’s qualification for the world championship finals – with a stunning performances at last year’s Under 22 European Championships at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire. He also shone for Scotland as his country battled to gold against Northern Ireland and Wales in The Lord’s Taverners Celtic Cup.
He said: “I feel with the squad selected we have an excellent chance of going all the way and I can’t wait to get out there in September. This will be my last year with the U23s so I am hoping we do one better than last year and we come home with a [worlds] medal.”
The former Currie Community High pupil is hoping to move to Loughborough in Leicestershire soon to make use of the facilities at its sports university. It will also mean he is closer to the home of wheelchair basketball – Stoke Mandeville Hospital – where he practises with the GB team.
Mat Foden, Great Britain U23 head coach, said Steven had done well to get selected in what has become an increasingly competitive sport. He said: “To select the final 12 was a really difficult decision as there is such depth and talent at the moment.”