DEALING with having your leg amputated is devastating at any age, but when you’re just 10 years old your life is flipped upside down.
Gaz Choudhry lost his right leg after cancer attacked his knee and his amputation was followed by years of chemotherapy.
But when he was 13, around the time he moved to Ealing Broadway, by chance he had a spin in a wheelchair when he visited a road show by the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association. He instantly fell in love with the game and hasn’t looked back since. And now the top scorer has real hopes of bringing home another medal for ParalympicsGB in September.
The 26-year-old uses a prosthetic leg to walk but said getting in the wheelchair on the court changed his life forever.
“I loved being in the chair. I found it the most invigorating thing in my life,” he said. “I got in the chair, tried it, loved it and then I joined a club based in Heston called Force and we trained in Osterley.”
There he played alongside future Paralympians Ade Adeptian and Sinclair Thomas for six years before moving on to Super League Club MK Aces. For the past three years he’s played for an Italian team and will join a German squad next season.
And for someone who has harnessed their disability to become a world champion - the team won bronze in Beijing - Gaz is keen to inspire youngsters of all ages and abilities.
He said: “I don’t use a wheelchair day to day, I’ve got a prosthetic leg. There’s a lot of stigma about getting in a chair but the chair is completely a part of the sport equipment.
“To those guys that don’t want to get in a chair, for me it’s changed my life completely. I’ve got to travel the world, to live in other countries and I’ve met some amazing, amazing people that have gone through some terrible things and the positive messages people seem to have in Paralympics is so profound.”
Gaz, who went to Walford High, now the site of West London Academy in Northolt, is also training to become a full time coach, and has even helped motivate Ealing karate club Elkai.
“I’m interested in specific skills and team building. I worked with Elkai to run a team building session before their nationals, talking about principles and what our team ethos is and how to improve performance.”
Gaz’s parents and two sisters have already secured tickets to see him compete at the O2 Arena and he hopes his elderly grandparents will be able to make the long journey from West Ealing to Greenwich.
“My grandad doesn’t understand what’s going on,” he said. “He’s 95, he’s not senile but he doesn’t fully understand why there are players in wheelchairs crashing into each other. It’ll be really special for me to have them there.”
He added: “The best thing is playing in my home city. I’m very excited but I don’t know about being ready. We’re working hard and I don’t think we could train any harder.
“It’s one of the hardest games to win in because there’s so many group stages but we hope to win a medal and make the country proud.”