Passion for running on two wheels… “I feel a sense of freedom on the court”

It was an accident that happened in an instant. After that, the leg did not move. In the hospital, he said, “I might be able to walk again안전놀이터.” However, the hope gradually faded. Gradually, I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to walk again’. That time was May 2008. For five years in the United States, he studied hard for high school and college, and dreamed of a sports-related job, but this too was shattered. Still, he couldn’t bear to let go of sports. He caught the basketball again. Although he ran on two wheels instead of two on his court, his beating heart was still there. This is the story of Choi Yo-han (36) who met with <The Hankyoreh> at the Holt Sports Complex for the Disabled in Ilsan on the 11th.

When he first joined the Goyang Holt wheelchair basketball team in 2011, he was the one who silently bounced the ball in the corner. Choi Yo-han said, “It was okay when I was rehabilitated at the hospital. However, since he came out of the world, the reality was more difficult than he thought.” He continued, “I was more intimidated as I was conscious of other people’s gazes. Even on the basketball team, at first, I was so shy that I couldn’t even talk.” He used to be the captain now.

Choi Yo-han was selected as a member of the wheelchair basketball team at the 2014 Incheon Para Asian Games and won a gold medal. He himself said, “I wasn’t that good, but I was lucky to be among the 12 members of the national team.” Every time I see the national team uniform I was wearing at the time, I feel proud. However, his career as a national team player was short-lived. Since he works out while working, he has to earn a living during the day. While working as a social rehabilitation teacher at Holt Ilsan Nursing Home, he bounces a ball three times a week in the evenings.

The Holt Wheelchair Basketball Team was founded in February 1987 for the purpose of rehabilitation of the disabled. Athletes who work and train at the same time are struggling with a poor training environment, insufficient support, and the absence of new players. So even when he first joined the basketball team and even now 12 years later, Yohan Choi is the youngest player. There were times when there were 12 or 13 players, but they fell for the unemployment team and now there are only 5 players, which is the number of players participating in the game. If someone is injured, it becomes difficult to compete.

There are three unemployed wheelchair basketball teams in Korea: Coway, Chuncheon Sports Association for the Disabled, and Jeju Samdasoo, and Choi Yo-han also considered transferring. If you go to the unemployment team, the national team re-entry may be better than now. This is because it is not easy to join even if selected for the national team for reasons such as training camps. There are times when his heart is shaken due to various conditions, but he wants to protect the team. Choi Yo-han said, “If you look at our team composition, there are two in their 50s and two in their 40s. My older brothers in their 50s also worry about retirement because of their stamina, but they are only playing for the team,” he said.

Wheelchair basketball is played on a non-disabled basketball court. The rim height is the same. I have to bounce the ball while handling the wheelchair, so my shoulders, wrists, and back can’t be healthy. Nevertheless, the court is a place where I want to pour out my passion as much as possible. Choi Yo-han said, “It makes me really proud to see people with mild and severe disabilities get along together to create team play and learn various skills and develop themselves.” As a person who did it, I feel a lot of joy.”

Hwang Jeong-hee (55), who is forming a’one team’ with him, said, “After the accident in high school, I was only at home for a while. Wheelchair basketball has now become a support for my daily life.” Kang Jae-jun (49), who suffered from polio and had to use crutches since childhood, said, “When I am in a wheelchair, it feels like I am running. Wheelchair basketball is a cool breeze that I can feel while running on my own.” For Kim Si-hyeon (45), who underwent chemotherapy and three major surgeries in her 20s and only accepted her disability in her mid-30s, wheelchair basketball became a “turning point”. Oh Ki-seok (54) said, “I became active after playing wheelchair basketball.”

Choi Yo-han’s life was ‘stopped for now’ for a while due to an accident of injustice. However, he was ‘replayed’ as wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball is what made me feel my heart beating fast again. Choi Yo-han said, “I hope people with disabilities don’t waste their youth at home,” and added, “All you need is the courage to come out. I hope you can feel the refreshing freedom inside the court.” His passion for rim is burning vigorously today.

Meanwhile, the Goyang Holt Wheelchair Basketball Team will participate in the Holt National Wheelchair Basketball Championship (hosted by the Holt Children’s Welfare Association and the Goyang City Sports Association for the Disabled) held at the Holt Sports Complex for the Disabled from the 18th to the 20th. Six teams (three unemployment teams and three non-employment teams) participate, and the Goyang Holt Wheelchair Basketball Team, which won one victory in the last competition, is aiming for a victory in this competition as well. Choi Yo-han said, “There are no substitutes, so five players have to keep playing. I will run without giving up until the end.”