17-year-old Teisha Shadwell is one of the nine athletes deemed non-eligible by the IPC. The former Aussie Gliders player spoke with Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings about the situation. The current U25 World silver medallist described wheelchair basketball as her “lifeline” after she suffered a career-ending able-bodied basketball injury at the age of 13. She elaborated on the heartbreak she has been dealing with whilst coming to terms with the fact that her Paralympic dream is over.
How do you feel about being ruled ineligible for the Paralympic Games?
“I feel devasted and furious all at once. The Paralympic Games was something I was working hard towards. It was the glimmer of hope that kept me going when I got diagnosed with my disability. It was in reach and now it’s been snatched away. It’s such an indescribable feeling.”
How do your teammates feel about your non-eligibility ruling?
“My teammates have been so supportive since I received the non-eligibility ruling. I can’t speak for them directly or for the rest of the basketball community, but from all the messages I’ve received, I would say most people are feeling bemused and shocked at not only the ruling but the whole ordeal.”
Can you explain to the best of your ability what your disability / impairment is?
“I have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). For me, this is located in both my feet. I live in constant pain. This pain is indescribable, but the best way I could put it for people to understand is a mixture of burning and searing alongside a constant sharp stabbing pain that I feel 24/7. I have suffered a loss of passive range of movement and the muscles in my feet have deteriorated, resulting in a loss of function. I require the use of a wheelchair for almost all of my daily activities.”
Can you explain to the best of your ability how you acquired your disability / impairment?
“When I was 13, I played able-bodied basketball at a national level. In the lead up to the club nationals we had a vigorous training schedule, training five to seven days a week, with the other two days being game days. I started to feel excruciating pain in my feet, four months before the competition. I saw my physiotherapist several times and I was put on a ‘base it off pain’ plan, where if I felt I could train and play, I must do so. Immediately after the club nationals, I received scans of my feet. I had fractured my navicular bones multiple times. I had surgeries on my feet, resulting in screws being put into them. My feet never fully recovered after the surgery.”
Can you explain how your disability / impairment prohibits you from being able to play able-bodied sport?
“I am in constant pain. I can’t even stand up for five minutes unaided, so it’s nearly impossible for me to step onto a court or field, let alone partake in what is at least a 40-minute game. I physically cannot run. This is due to the loss of passive range of movement, muscle deterioration and muscle function in both my feet.”
Can you explain to the best of your ability the medical history of your disability / impairment?
“From the age of 13, I was in and out of casts and moon boots for about a year in the lead up to my surgeries. My surgeries resulted in a year dedicated to being in and out of hospitals alongside being placed in regular casts and moon boots. By the age of 15, I was living in and out of doctors’ offices, seeing GPs, physiotherapists and surgeons which to this day continues, two years on.”
How does it make you feel that your disability / impairment isn’t recognised by the IPC?
“It’s infuriating. Disability isn’t confined to a set of ideals or standards; it doesn’t just look one way. We are taught this as kids, all your life you are told: ‘Disability isn’t the same for anybody and definitely doesn’t look the same for any one person.’ How the hell have the IPC failed to understand this, when we are taught this lesson from the get-go? How have they decided that their vision of disability is only defined by 10 specific sets of criteria? Why do they have the right to tell someone who is disabled, that they are ‘not disabled enough’ to compete in the Paralympic Games? It absolutely flaws me. Disability does not discriminate, so why does the IPC?”
Are you going to take any legal action going forward?
“It’s been less than a week since I received the IPC’s decision, so I honestly haven’t even thought that far ahead yet. However, I 100% support anybody who takes legal action against the IPC. Everything they have done in relation to this situation has been unethical, especially when it comes to the treatment of the athletes affected by their decisions.”
How has the situation affected your mental health?
“I’m still processing the fact that I’ve gone from training five days a week to none and that I can’t be in contention to represent my country at the Paralympic Games anymore. Honestly, this last week has been really difficult for me. Riding the waves of anger and sadness, I look for anything to give me a five-minute break from thinking about the situation.”
How will the situation affect your day-to-day life going forward?
“I don’t think I will ever be able to fully move on from this. Basketball has always been such a big part of my day-to-day life, whether that be training sessions, games or even social group chats with my teammates. I find it very hard to imagine a future without basketball being at a high-performance level. My day-to-day life will be hugely affected by the decision the IPC has made as the Paralympic Games shaped my aspirations and goals for the future.”
In your Facebook post, you concluded that your basketball career is over. What made you come to this decision?
“I didn’t get to end my international basketball career on my own terms, and I don’t think I will ever be able to describe how much that hurts.”
IWBF Europe have announced that players deemed non-eligible by the IPC are still eligible to play in EuroCup. Do you have any aspirations to play the sport professionally in Europe in the future?
“I had thought about this a lot whilst being internationally classified, but now I’m honestly not sure. It’s been a big blow for me receiving this decision and I’m currently still processing this information. However, it’s definitely still on the cards and something that I will continue to think about.”
Can you elaborate on how the inclusive nature of wheelchair basketball gave you a new lease of life when you first started playing?
“It was my saving grace. After my injury, I entered a dark place and I honestly couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed to face the world. When I first heard of wheelchair basketball, I’ll be honest, I was a little hesitant. However, when I got down to the courts and witnessed the game, I was sold on it. The people around me were just so friendly and welcoming. The first time I sat in a chair and rolled onto the court; it was like I was made for the sport. Wheelchair basketball became the reason I got out of bed every morning and trained so hard. All my dreams and goals became focused around the sport and making it to the Paralympic Games. Wheelchair basketball became the lifeline that I needed to survive.”
Why do you think it’s important for wheelchair basketball to continue to have an inclusive nature?
“It’s important because wheelchair basketball is a lifeline to so many people. The sport is an outlet for all the emotions you feel when you have a disability. What the IPC is doing is robbing people of a lifeline that they need. They are taking away the one opportunity that someone needs to be able to carry on with life.”
If you had the chance to speak to the head of the IPC face-to-face what would you say to them and how would you put forward an argument as to why they should consider altering their classification code?
“I would ask them why? Why would they do this? What prompted them to enforce the rule change? I would argue that disability cannot be defined into 10 specific sets of criteria. I would press for clarity on this. The classification code cannot stay the same as it is if it means that somebody, who has been told by medical professionals that they can no longer play able-bodied sport; is also excluded from disability sport at the highest level, for example, the Paralympic Games. I hope the IPC make changes to their classification code, bearing in mind how many current and future disabled athletes will be affected by these decisions across all Paralympic sports.”
Thanks for your time Teisha!
Rollt. would like to thank Teisha Shadwell for the interview!
Teisha Shadwell Profile:
Date of Birth: 12/03/2003 (aged 17)
Hometown: Melbourne, Victoria
Started playing: 2017
Australia senior debut: 2019 Asia Oceania Championships – Pattaya, Thailand
Disability: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CPRS) which causes a loss of passive range of movement, muscle deterioration and muscle function in both feet.
Current Club: Kilsyth Cobras, AUS (2017-Present)
_2019 U25 World Championships – Suphan Buri, Thailand – Silver (AUS)
_2019 Asia Oceania Championships – Pattaya, Thailand – Silver (AUS)
You can view Teisha’s original Facebook post here.
You can view the IPC’s International Standards for Eligible Impairments here.
For global mental health support, click here.
Note: If any current or former athletes or coaches want a platform to voice how they feel about the situation, message me – Dylan Cummings
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl