By the time she was 13, Djami Diallo had escaped civil-war-ravaged Liberia with her family and immigrated to Canada. There was, however, one place that she never imagined she’d end up: on the top of a podium. Born with cerebral palsy and unable to walk more than a short distance, Djami grew up chasing after her sisters. Playing sports, however, was impossible.
All that changed when 13-year-old Djami and her twin sister came to a BC Wheelchair Sports Have a Go Day. The moment she tried a sports wheelchair, Djami was hooked.
“Up until that day, I’d only had a huge hospital wheelchair. It was hard to push myself around,” she said. “For the first time, I had the feeling of having more freedom in my wheelchair and I realized I don’t have to be limited in any way!”
Djami’s love of sport soon led her to wheelchair racing. “Racing is a very freeing feeling. You don’t feel any pain. You just go. It’s nice having the wind in your face or at your back.”
Djami acquired a racing wheelchair through BCWSA’s wheelchair loan program. We also arranged for her to work with a supportive coach, and provided her with financial assistance so that she could travel to tournaments and clinics. BC Wheelchair Sports Association has helped her develop the skills she needs to gain confidence not only in sport but in everyday life.
“If I’d never played wheelchair sports, I definitely wouldn’t have been as outgoing as I am now,” she said. “You have this sense of fear growing up as a child with a disability, so to see that I can play a sport and excel, that’s a big thing. I carry that with everything I do.”
This feeling of confidence is certainly paying off. At the 2014 Canadian National Championships, Djami won her first gold medal and set a personal best. Now, she’s set her sights on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Her newfound confidence is also helping her earn a new set of wheels; she’s learning to drive.
You can help.
There are hundreds of up-and-coming wheelchair athletes in British Columbia who have the same passion for sport as Djami. They too dream of participating in the sport both on the world stage and here at home. BCWSA works to reduce barriers for people with disabilities of all ages and abilities and help them to lead a healthy active lifestyle. With the cost of a single sports wheelchair reaching over $3000, the need for support has never been greater. Your donation today will help BC Wheelchair Sports purchase much-needed equipment, train coaches and help athletes achieve their dreams.