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Going from pool lane to basketball lane

Horel makes the switch from water to hardcourt with no problem

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When she made the decision to take a third-year course in adapted physical activity during her first year of kinesiology at the University of Winnipeg, Chantelle Horel had no idea it would change the course of her life.

A swimmer who competed at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina in the 100 backstroke, 100 and 50 freestyle, she was the only member of the class with a physical disability.


"In my first year at university I was debating whether I wanted to go the full extent with swimming," she said Wednesday. "Because I have a physical disability, and the fact that the senior women's wheelchair basketball coach Bill Johnson was my professor, they decided that I would attend the 2007 Whitehorse Canada Games and compete in wheelchair basketball.

"There was a lot of opportunity (to play) right after (Whitehorse), so I thought, why not?"

Horel is one of 16 athletes attempting to crack the first-ever under-25 women's wheelchair basketball team this week at a selection camp being held at the Investors Group Athletic Centre. Unfortunately for the 22-year-old, she picked up a flu bug and spent Wednesday on the couch in her Winnipeg home.

The camp will decide which athletes will represent Canada at a number of international events this year.

The senior women's team is one of the most successful in Canadian amateur sport history. It has won three Paralympic gold medals and been to the podium at six consecutive world championships. The players selected for this year's team will represent Canada at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, which is also the qualification tournament for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Players selected to the under-25 team will represent Canada in the inaugural 2011 Women's Under-25 World Championship July 15-23 in St. Catharines, Ont.

"If there is one thing wheelchair basketball has taught me, it is to be prepared for anything," said Horel, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy. "Also to be prepared for these things (such as a sudden bout of flu), and have a good mindset. Right now I am on nothing but fluids, and I am trying to be there for (ensuing) practices."

The camp, which was to start Monday, didn't really get off the ground until Thursday, as many of the players were held up in Birmingham, Ala., due to storms.

The upside of it all was that they got some good game time in on their road trip prior to being stranded.

"We were in New Orleans the first weekend in January," said Horel, "and I thought we played amazing. It was the first time we've ever played together. It was a perfect opportunity to play other roles. I shot more down there than I ever had.

"We were playing in the men's division, against men easily 200-250 pounds, for the most part.

"Because I am smaller than most players I have to be prepared for those height mismatches.

"I don't consider myself a big shooter, so I try to use my communication skills with the other players to get our bigger players to the basket."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2011 C6

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