Arinn Young with Team Canada at the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship – Phillip MacCallum / Wheelchair Basketball Canada Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
An 18-year-old Legal athlete is a world champion after helping take gold in the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship June 28 in Toronto. Arinn Young, who graduated from Morinville Community High School last month, was named to the national team earlier this year.
After working her way through five days of competition, she and the rest of Team Canada entered quarter-finals against Australia, emerging with a 63-47 victory. That win propelled Canada to the semi-finals, where they defeated the Netherlands 75-74 in the final seconds of play. Canada took on Germany in the final June 28 and earned a 54-50 win. It was the first time Canada had beat the German team since 2006.
“It was pretty exciting,” Young said of the experience, noting a big surprise awaited her at home. “I came home to a bunch of family waving Canada flags in my driveway. I was really tired from the trip and I wasn’t expecting a bunch of family cheering me on at home as well. It was so heart-warming to know my family supported me through it all.”
Young began her athletic career playing stand up basketball, which she said was her favourite sport. Though she tried lacrosse one year, she continued to play basketball enthusiastically until knee injuries ultimately prevented her from playing any longer. She retired from stand up basketball last year after taking another injury during the first game of zones. The injury did not prevent her from playing a half game during provincials, but that game would be her last of stand up basketball.
The athlete said her desire to continue in sports is due to having grown up playing sports her entire life. Beyond that, it is the sense of family and camaraderie she encounters on teams that makes sport appealing to her.
A family friend whose daughter has spina bifida initially recruited young to wheelchair basketball. Young said she was nervous to try out the sport because she had never tried it before. “When I got there people were really happy I was there,” Young recalls. Though a world champion today, Young confesses her game has gotten considerably better. “I was probably the most terrible wheelchair basketball player when I started but they said I had potential.”
That potential quickly manifested itself on the court. Young took 4th place at Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League (CWBL) Women’s National Championship with the Edmonton Inferno in Richmond, B.C. in 2012, and followed it up with a 1st-place win at CWBL Women’s National Championship with Edmonton Inferno in 2013. Young was also named All-Star in Longueuil, Quebec the same year.
When she was asked to play for the national team and participate in the world championships, Young said she could hardly believe it. “My heart was so big to find that out, and the first thing I did was called my mom, my parents, and they were really excited,” She said. “They were crying on the phone and I was nearly in tears. It’s just something I always wanted to do.”
The elation continued when she arrived in Toronto and was presented with her Team Canada jersey. “Just to have Canada on your jersey, representing your home country in your home country, is such a great experience,” she said. “I’m just so proud and I still cannot believe I won gold. It’s just hitting me now that we are world champions.
More training and competition ahead
With high school and her first world championship behind her, Young is pushing on in her sport with an eye towards more wheelchair basketball success. Young will be moving to Toronto to attend a sports academy there as well taking some courses at Centennial College to figure out what she might like to do after her career in wheelchair basketball is over.
Until then Young has a long road of training and competition ahead. She trains in the gym in her chair three times a week in Edmonton and because upper body strength is so essential to the game, she hits the weight room three times a week as well. “I’m really busy with training all the time, and sometimes I’ll box because it is good for your shoulders and your arms,” she said, adding chair skills also form part of the training regime. “You do nonstop pushing for a long time. It’s crazy how much upper body strength you need. Young estimates she spends about 24 hours per week training in and out of the gym.
Thankful for successes in sport, she is confident others can achieve success as well. “When you think you can’t do something, keep trying. You will get somewhere and succeed,” she said.
Young during the gold medal game against Germany. Phillip MacCallum / Wheelchair Basketball Canada Photo