Wheelchair Sports: Hannah Dodd’s Journey to Becoming a Dual Paralympic Athlete and the Postponement of the 2020 Games
Hannah Dodd is a paralympic athlete who has achieved international success in multiple sports, representing Australia in both Grade IV equestrian and 1.0-point wheelchair basketball.
The 28-year-old won a silver medal at the 2015 Beijing Paralympic Games with the Australian Devils (The Under-25 Australian women's wheelchair basketball team).
Through the lens of her dual-sporting ventures, Hannah gave her perspective on young athletes starting out in wheelchair sports, dealing with the NDIS and gaining access to her first wheelchair.
She also spoke about the impact of COVID on her training and preparation for the recently postponed 2021 Paralympic Games.
Starting Out in the Wheelchair Sports Community
In the world of wheelchair sports, gaining access to suitable equipment can prove difficult. Often young athletes with a disability either have to buy their own wheelchair or loan a chair provided by more experienced athletes.
Changes are currently being made to allow for faster and fairer access to NDIS support, providing a welcome respite for Australia’s disabled community. With 100,000 new participants receiving assistance in the past 12 months, these reforms are aiming to provide easier access to funding.
When asked about receiving her first wheelchair, Dodd spoke highly of the comradery and culture of the wheelchair sports community.
“In my first two and a half years I played in other people’s old chairs. I had a loaned sports wheelchair which I paid $500 to have on loan,” explained Dodd. “It was an All Court made by Quickie, it was adjustable and was a good chair at the time.”
The community spirit and generosity of these high-level wheelchair athletes is admirable and has helped rising stars gain access to equipment they would otherwise be unable to afford.
“I think the wheelchair basketball community as a whole is really good. If someone new comes in we usually try give them an old chair that would suit them.”
Now an ambassador for Sunrise Medical, Hannah uses an RGK Elite X Basketball Wheelchair with carbon fibre that provides her with extra speed and agility on the court.
The future looks bright for the ever-growing Australian wheelchair sports scene with people like Hannah involved.
Becoming a Dual-Sport Paralympic Athlete
Dodd’s wheelchair basketball career began during the 2012 Paralympics when her family and coaching staff were watching the opening ceremony at a casino across the road from London’s Olympic Stadium.
Gerry Hewson, former Australian women’s wheelchair basketball coach, happened to be at the same venue and begun chatting to Hannah’s family. The chance meeting, with Hewson, gave Hannah the opportunity to try wheelchair basketball and she hasn’t looked back.
After the completion of the London 2012 games, Dodd was at a crossroads in her career and was facing the growing financial burden of competing in equestrian.
“When I came back from London, I couldn’t afford the horse I rode in London. I came back and it was the first time I didn’t have a horse in my entire life.”
Inspired by Hewson’s encouragement and seeking shelter from the stresses of elite sport training, Hannah gave basketball a go.
“I got into basketball to keep me busy, decompress from London and have a bit of fun with sport. I found that I really enjoyed it – I’m still very competitive regardless of the sport.”
Hannah’s competitive nature propelled her into the WNWBL in 2013, where she is currently playing for the Sydney University Flames. Her focus is now solely on wheelchair basketball and playing for the Gliders.
Postponement of the Paralympics
Travel restrictions, isolation and the postponement of the 2021 Paralympics have created obstacles both mentally and physically for Hannah’s training and preparation.
“We were looking at it (the postponement) in February and March knowing it was on the cards, that it was going to get cancelled. Obviously, it’s very frustrating, you’ve been gearing up and you’re in that final 8 months of training and all of a sudden, you’re back to general preparation”
Recently returning to full training, and with a new target for 2021, Hannah has been fortunate to train with the Brisbane men’s wheelchair team to keep her skills sharp while border restrictions are in place.
“The Qld guys are pretty good to me, being an outsider. I’m still allowed to come and train which is good. It is so important to go train with the men as I get some gameplay.”
Dodd remains positive about the prospect of the 2021 games going ahead and can’t wait to return to training with her Gliders teammates soon.
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