Minnesota rich with wheel chair athletes

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My first experience with wheelchair basketball in the photo above taken by MPR’s Jeff Thompson at Courage Center in Golden Valley came at the gentle insistence of John Hollermann.

John is the father of Rose Hollermann, the young woman in the photo explaining the features of the specially made units for wheelchair basketball athletes.

The Hollermanns hail from rural Eylsian in southern Minnesota.

John thought it would be a good experience for an aging and exercise-phobic reporter to get a feel for rolling, dribbling, stopping, shooting.

Sixteen-year-old Rose was the expert guide for the outing.

She’s been in a chair since she was five after a car crash that bruised her spine and limited her ability to walk.

My few minutes in the chair revealed a new world.

The rewiring of one’s brain needed to coordinate the new and unfamiliar tasks is humbling — and exhilarating.

Probably a bit like learning to ride a unicycle.

On ice.

Many of the folks I met on my visit to the Courage Center participate in an expanding universe of athletic opportunities.

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This photo shows 20-year-old Chuck Aoki, originally from Minneapolis, and an assistant coach, leading warm ups for the Courage Center team Rose trains with. That’s Rose in the background.

Chuck’s main sport is rugby as a member of the USA men’s paralympic rugby team.

He’s in a wheelchair because of the toll a rare genetic condition is taking on his limbs.

Chuck, Rose and a number of other wheelchair athletes disabilities have encountered new opportunities because of their disabilities.

Chuck has a scholarship to the University of Arizona for playing rugby. Rose and Sarah Binsfeld, also from Minnesota, have been selected for the USA women’s paralympic basketball team that will compete in London this summer after the Olympic games.

The Courage Center plays a giant role in opening doors for the athletes. The Center’s athletic program is one of if not the largest in the country.

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