Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Local athlete heading to Paralympics

The power of print led a young man on a journey to a roster spot on Canada’s national wheelchair basketball team. At 13-years-old, Peter Won’s mother was reading a newspaper when she came across an ad for wheelchair sports and she signed her son up.

The power of print led a young man on a journey to a roster spot on Canada’s national wheelchair basketball team.

At 13-years-old, Peter Won’s mother was reading a newspaper when she came across an ad for wheelchair sports and she signed her son up.

The Blackfalds resident fell in love with the sport almost instantly. And now, 15 years later, he is on his way to Rio de Janerio to compete in the Paralympic Games.

“It was a summer camp for wheelchair sports and I went there for a week and tried out lots of different sports,” said Won, who had both his legs amputated above the knee in a car crash when he was four years old. “I just fell in love with basketball.

“It’s a team sport with a lot of contact and different things to do. Track and swimming aren’t my type of sport.”

That passion has led the 28-year-old all the way to the senior men’s national team.

Although he didn’t make the national team after a 2014 tryout, he was invited back to selection camp the next year and earned a full-time spot on the roster.

He grew up in B.C. and represented the province at the 2007 Canada Games in Whitehorse. After his junior athlete career he pursued wheelchair basketball in the U.S.’s NCAA. He won a national title as a member of the University of Illinois in 2008.

He also spent time in Seoul, Korea, where his family is from, playing club basketball and played some semi-professional basketball with the Trier Dolphins in Germany.

“I’m trying my best to be the best,” said Won. “I just keep building and trying to be a better player so my team can be one of the better teams. That’s my mentality.”

He leaves today to go to Rio to compete in the Paralympic Games. Wheelchair Basketball starts on Sept. 8 with the medal games on Sept. 16 and 17.

“I’ll be more excited when I get to the airport,” said Won, adding he hasn’t had much time to watch the Olympics because of his own preparation.

“I’ve watched some swimming and some track, but it’s all highlights.”

Won said the team is young and is trying to take the games one at a time in the quick two-week tournament.

The national team won silver at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015, earning a spot in the Paralympic Games in Rio this year.

The team has used the last month to simulate the schedule they will have in Rio de Janerio and get acclimatized to the competition ahead.

“We’re getting used to the idea of how it’s going to work for us,” said Won.