Disease opens Williams’ world to the wonder of wheelchair basketball


It’s a measure of the character of South African wheelchair basketball star Shane Williams that he describes the amputation of his legs as a two-year-old as “A decision that is probably every parent’s nightmare, but maybe a blessing for me”.

Described by his teammates at the Lions and in the national team as the one player who always lifts everybody else’s spirits, Williams chooses to look back positively on how his life changed forever when he was diagnosed with meningococcal septicemia (a bloodstream infection).

“It’s every parent’s nightmare to give the go-ahead to amputate your child’s legs. But with that came a lot of achievements for me. I don’t know what kind of person I would’ve been if I had legs. I’m very thankful for who I am now and the support of my parents,” he says.

That decision when he was two-years-old would lead to him discovering wheelchair basketball as a teenager, and then quickly rising through the ranks of the sport from club to Western Province colours, competing in the prestigious Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge, to finally representing his country.

“Being disabled, I never thought of myself as any different to any able-bodied person. I’ve shown myself I can achieve my dreams and goals even though my circumstances are different. It’s all about that belief,” says Williams.

Yet he admits that the first time he went to watch a game of wheelchair basketball, he was not impressed at all and actually made fun of the players.

“I sat on the sidelines at first. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, my friends were begging me to try it, but I was making fun of the guys. I loved wheelchair racing more than anything. But as soon as I got on the court, the love started. Ever since then, my love for the game has grown.

“Representing my country for the first time was amazing. It was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Just to wear that Protea flower on your chest was such an honour. It’s a humbling experience, but it’s also made me feel I can achieve more in the sport.”

Williams sees the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge, which this year celebrates 20 years as the premier provincial competition in the local game, as a key component in his growth in the game.“The Vodacom Challenge is an amazing competition. Vodacom has been part of wheelchair basketball for so long, and it has certainly helped us as players grow in the sport.”

It’s a competition where Williams still enjoys finding expression for a sport he never dreamed he would come to love so much, and at one stage never thought he would be a part of.“I couldn’t finish school. The circumstances at home meant I had to help out my family, so I had to leave school and start working to support my family. My dream to play wheelchair basketball fulltime was on hold at that stage. But you’ve just got to have confidence and belief in yourself, and never give up on your dream.”

And once again, Williams reminds you of his character when he adds, “But for me, family is the most important thing. Seeing a smile on a family member’s face kept me going and inspired me.”

You can catch the action at the 2019 Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge Finals, taking place on Saturday 16 November at Mandeville.

The U23’s play at 10h00, the Women’s Final at 11h30 and the Men’s Final at 14h00.  The Men’s Final will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

Vodacom is proud to be a sponsor of wheelchair basketball for the past 20 years.  20 Years of promoting the power of sport.