Brazil’s Amauri Viana found wheelchair basketball as part of his rehabilitation following a car accident left him with a spinal cord injury at the age of 19.

The 30-year-old Brazilian international, who plays for the A.D.D. (Sports Association for the Disabled) Magic Hands in São Paulo, Brazil, explained how it felt to play the sport for the first time 11 years ago:

“I met with Sarah Kubitschek (former First Lady of Brazil) at the rehabilitation hospital and I felt very attracted to wheelchair basketball as it was a sport totally different from what I had seen. The emotion of sitting in a basketball chair for the first time and feeling the adrenaline, it returned my dream of being a professional athlete and I had a chance to realize a dream of playing at a Paralympic Games.”

Viana achieved his dream when he was selected to play for the Brazil men’s team in front of home crowds at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, assisting them to their highest ever finish of fifth in the world. However, it was not an easy road to the Games, Viana explained:

“My best memory of playing wheelchair basketball was playing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but I faced my most challenging obstacle ahead of it and had to overcome an injury just before the Games.”

Following the success at Rio 2016, Brazil narrowly missed out on a ticket to Tokyo 2020, but Viana has already set his future goals:

“I want to continue to Improve myself as an athlete and secure a place in Paris 2024.”

It is not only on the court Viana has achieved great things and he credits wheelchair basketball for giving him the confidence to do so:

“Wheelchair basketball has helped me to have more freedom and to be independent. It helped in recovering my balance and going through all the obstacles in life. It made me feel that anything is possible.”

And his advice for anyone who may also face a similar experience:

“A spinal cord injury does not prevent you from living and being happy, always seek the best within yourself, we all have dreams to be fulfilled, seek without fear and with God everything is possible.“

World Spinal Cord Injury Day, an initiative by The International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS), takes place on 5 September every year with the aim to increase awareness throughout the community and promotes disability inclusion throughout the world.