Basketball star Tillman prepares for ‘special day’

Fi Tillman
Fi Tillman

EASTBOURNE’S Fi Tillman admits taking part in this year’s National Paralympic Day will go down as a career highlight – although she’s adamant there are bigger and better milestones to come yet.

An accomplished able-bodied basketball player, Tillman started playing wheelchair basketball in 2011 after she was injured in a road accident and has since gone from strength to strength on the court.

She made her major international debut for Great Britain at the World Championships in Toronto in June and, the oldest member of the team at 40, she helped them to a best ever finish of fifth.

Next up for Tillman and the British team is a clash against London 2012 bronze medallists the Netherlands as part of the National Paralympic Day at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on August 30.

And Tillman is relishing the chance to be in the thick of the action at the scene of so much British success at London 2012 before bidding to create her own Paralympic memories at Rio 2016.

“I think it’s fantastic that we get to take on such a good side like the Netherlands and to have the opportunity to play them at home where the Paralympics took place in front of hopefully a sell-out crowd will be amazing,” said Tillman.

“It will provide us with a benchmark of how we are progressing as a team. We definitely raised a few eyebrows at the World Championships with our performances and it’s about taking that into next year’s Europeans and then the Paralympics.

“It is a very humbling feeling every chance I get to pull on a Great Britain vest. Watching the Paralympics and seeing the girls playing was my inspiration so to be on court with them back in London is incredibly special.

“It will be a highlight and something I take to my grave with me. There is a great energy and positivity within the team at the moment and want to build on that.”

Following on from the success of last year’s inaugural National Paralympic Day, Tillman and Britain’s women’s wheelchair basketball team won’t be the only elite athletes in action. A host of world-class swimmers and boccia players will also showcase their skills and Tillman admits the day is a marker of just how far attitudes towards para-sport have come.

“If you had said ten years ago that I would be playing at the Olympic Park as part of an annual day to celebrate Paralympic sport then I would have looked at you in disbelief,” she added.

“I think it’s just wonderful. Hopefully it can inspire the next line of sporting stars. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it – it really shows the legacy of London 2012.”

National Paralympic Day will be celebrated on Saturday August 30 with a day of Paralympic sport and disability arts in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. To buy tickets for the Paralympic sport, log on to #NPD2014 is supported by Spirit of 2012