For eight years, Oscar Knight has dedicated himself to wheelchair basketball and dreamed of a spot on Great Britain’s Paralympics team.
But the 17-year-old now faces a devastating decision after being told he is not technically disabled enough to compete in the sport.
Despite the fact Oscar relies on a wheelchair on a daily basis, a rule change by the international body for disabled sport means he may have to have a leg amputated to fulfill his dream of competing internationally.
Oscar was nine when he began suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a persistent debilitating pain.
He also has hypermobility syndrome which means his joints are weak and prone to breaks.
It comes just weeks after Team GB wheelchair basketball player George Bates was considering having one of his legs amputated so he is eligible to compete in the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Oscar said: ‘I woke up one morning and I couldn’t put my feet on the ground without being in pain.
‘That condition has deteriorated over time and although I was able to walk with the aid of crutches initially, I now use a wheelchair all the time as I’m unable to walk or bear my own weight. I was always into sport and would play football at primary school every chance I had. But since being diagnosed with CRPS, I have fallen in love with wheelchair basketball.’
Oscar plays for the Plymouth Raiders, and was selected to be a part of the GB Academy. He even captained an under-22 team in a recent game against Spain.
But now his dream of competing at the Paralympics has been thrown into doubt.
Wheelchair basketball’s governing body, the IWBF, has been told by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that it needs to change its classification. The IPC said some athletes were competing with disabilities that were not covered by its code. The organisation lists some conditions that ‘primarily cause pain’ – including CRPS – as ‘non-eligible impairments’.
Oscar, from Kingsbridge, Devon, added: ‘To be told that I don’t have the right kind of disability is absurd.
‘I’m in a wheelchair and I’m in constant pain and for someone to say that I’m not disabled enough is just discriminatory.
‘Amputating a leg just so that you can follow your chosen sport may seem a drastic measure, but it’s one which I may have to consider.’
His mother, Natasha, said: ‘It is crazy that the IPC – which attempts to base its brand around equality and inclusivity – is deliberately discriminating against athletes who don’t meet its narrow-minded view of what it means to be disabled.
‘Oscar has dedicated his life to wheelchair basketball and to have his dream snatched away is another blow to a teenager who has a life of disability ahead of him.
‘How can athletes be excluded from the only sports they are physically able to play?’
The IPC said: ‘All Paralympic sport is governed by the code, which was approved by the IPC’s 200-plus members in 2015. We have been working with all international federations to ensure they fully implement and abide by the rules of the code.’