Chaplin primed for Games tilt
HARCOURT paralympian Shelley Chaplin is enjoying the calm before a pre-Beijing storm this week, only a few days before her gold medal odyssey officially begins.
Chaplin will head to the Australian Institute of Sport this weekend for the Paralympic wheelchair basketball trials which will determine the make-up of the national side for the September games.
For the past three years Chaplin has played for the University of Illinois and recently claimed her third national championship with the star-studded squad which contains eight players to have represented their country at international level.
A scholarship allows her to complete a recreation, sport and tourism degree while pursuing her wheelchair basketball goals, but the 23-year-old admitted she was far more attentive on the court than in the classroom.
"I’m really just there to play basketball," Chaplin joked.
"School is just a necessary evil." Regardless of the mandatory academia, Chaplin has blossomed in the innovative program which consists of daily 6.30 am to 9.30 am training sessions, three weights sessions a week and video analysis.
"It’s been really good, it’s probably the best program in the world for wheelchair basketball," she said.
"I’m training under one of the best coaches and playing against the best players in the world, so it’s improved my game out of sight (and) we’ve been a really dominant team the whole time I’ve been there.’’ Chaplin will train with 14 other national squad team-mates this weekend and the point guard is confident of again being given the chance to represent her country.
She was on the bench when Australia claimed silver four years ago in Athens and is determined to play a more important role this time around.
"It was exciting for my first Paralympics just to be there, but this time I think I can contribute a lot to our team and, hopefully, winning a gold medal," Chaplin said.
‘‘As far as the Beijing Paralympics are concerned we’ll be right up there, I think we’ll be in the gold medal game probably playing the Americans, so I’ll have to play my friends to win the gold medal.’’ Chaplin finds it hard to comprehend life without wheelchair basketball, a sport almost thrust upon her less than eight years ago.
Ironically, Chaplin was enjoying a parade by paralympians through Melbourne after the Sydney games when she was asked to consider taking up a sport.
Basketball was selected because of the team elements of the game and Chaplin now finds herself on the brink of another paralympic birth, inspiring young athletes as she was once inspired as a 15-year-old.
"It’s let me travel the world, I’ve had so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t play basketball and I couldn’t even imagine what I’d be doing now if I wasn’t playing overseas and stuff like that," she said.