File size must be less than 2Mb
You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image
File types (jpg, png, gif)
08 July 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Horsham wheelchair basketball star Jannik Blair is launching himself back into training to prepare for next year’s Paraylmpics after a two-month hiatus from the sport.
The two-time Paralympian was playing alongside Darwin team-mate Tom O’Neill-Thorne in Spanish team Bilbao BSR while COVID-19 was ramping up worldwide.
Bilbao was well-placed to earn a top spot in Europe’s 2020 Champions League after securing a position to compete in the quarter finals.
Article continues below
But Blair said teams were forced to abandon the league and the Australians made the ‘tough call’ to fly home.
“Things got really serious in Spain, they shut the entire country down and we were pretty much booking our flights home,” he said.
“We were disappointed – in previous years we made it to the quarter finals and got among the top eight teams in Europe. We wanted to do one better this year.
“The European leagues are the strongest in the world and that’s where everyone tries to base themselves, particularly in the years immediately before the Paralympics or the world championships.”
During the pandemic, Blair set himself up in Horsham at his family’s farm to take a long-deserved break from the sport.
But the 28-year-old said he was excited to get back onto the court with his team-mates.
“We’ve been getting back to training in Melbourne for the past five weeks, just to get back into the swing of it,” he said.
“It was a great feeling, although my hands definitely paid the price.
“After two months of not being in the chair, naturally your hands get soft again, so basically the first couple of weeks back I have just been covered in blisters.
“This has certainly been the longest stretch I’ve been back home – I’m starting to get itchy feet again now and looking forward to the opportunity to get back over to Spain.”
Blair plans to prove himself on the world stage once again for the postponed Tokyo Summer Paralympics in 2021.
“It was a shame to invest in all of that and not have chance to go to Tokyo this year,” he said.
“Between the Paralympics, the odd year is our year off, but next year is the Paralympics and the following is the world championships, so there won’t be a lot of rest time.”
Blair said he planned to push on in the sport for many years to come.
“I’m still loving basketball, the lifestyle and everything that comes with it,” he said.
“We look at our career in four-year blocks in a Paralympic cycle, so I think I’ll aim to push on to 2024 and then reassess as that draws a bit closer.
“Having a bit of time away from the game makes me realise it’s a huge passion and a huge part of my life. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for it. I take that as a sign I should keep going.”
Blair said he has built a strong connection with his teammates in the past 10 years, where he has played alongside Australia’s best players.
“I’ve built a strong chemistry with my teammates. We know each other really well and don’t even have to necessarily communicate with words, you just have a really good feeling as to what your team-mates are going to do,” he said.
“When you’re a part of team like that, it’s really enjoyable.”
The entire July 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!