GEORGE | Wheels up: National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament rolls into Louisville
Nearly 90 teams from across the country are in Louisville to compete in what is billed as the biggest single-sport event for athletes with disabilities.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament is billed as the world's biggest single-sport event for athletes with disabilities, and it's happening in Louisville this weekend.
It includes five divisions, allowing players as young as 6 and as old as 70 to compete in the four-day tournament.
Nearly 90 teams from across the country are in town for the event, and the players say that this weekend is their NCAA Tournament.
"It's so wonderful to have the combination of kids and adults," said Sarah Castle, president of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. "You get to see different levels of sports. There's an interest in watching kids grow ... The people who gravitate to enjoying the children's games are absolutely fantastic, but you also get to see some of the best athletes in the world compete here this week."
As you might expect with national championships on the line, the divisions are highly competitive.
"I don't think that people really necessarily have the image of how competitive wheelchair basketball really is," Castle said. And when you come out here and you see the athleticism of our youth as well as our adults, you will see some of the most impressive athletes in the world in any sport. I mean some of the things that they do is really beyond amazing."
"A lot of times, you get people to come to a wheelchair basketball game, they think the final score is going to 8-6 with an overtime. We average 70 points a game," said Donnie Langford, a member of the North Carolina TarWheels team.
Just ask U of L's Anas Mahmoud, who played against an NWBA team in a local celebrity matchup.
"They are a lot faster than us. They're a lot better," he said. "I mean, they do reverse layups and their passing is unreal. I mean, even our basketball team doesn't pass as well as they do. It's unreal. It's so much fun."
Mahmoud said he never knew how much upper body strength it took to play wheelchair basketball.
"I work out everyday, every night and after 10 to 15 minutes my arms are tired," Mahmoud said.
Langford is a veteran to the game who says you need more than just sheer strength to excel. You need grit and determination.
"What the able-bodied people don't understand is how much talent it takes to do this. We're not only playing basketball, were maneuvering a wheelchair the whole time too," Langford said.
The championship games for each division will be played on Saturday and Sunday at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center.
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