Player's Own Voice podcast: Wheelchair basketball team leader Tara Llanes on safe sport then and now

·2 min read
Tara LLanes portrait taken at the 2023 Canadian Paralympic Committee Media Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto on March 14, 2023. (Michael P. Hall/michaelphall.ca - image credit)
Tara LLanes portrait taken at the 2023 Canadian Paralympic Committee Media Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto on March 14, 2023. (Michael P. Hall/michaelphall.ca - image credit)

If Tara Llanes was in the branding business, her personal motto might be "Once a baller, always a baller."

As a kid in California she loved basketball, and she played a high-level game until BMX caught her attention. And then a professional mountain biking career took hold.  But just when Llanes began to feel like she had done all she could in cycling sport, a crash left her paralyzed from the waist down.

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Once her rehabilitation work was far enough along to allow it, she developed a passion for wheelchair tennis. Friends told her that she could improve her tennis game by practising seated basketball.

And so the circle closed, and Llanes, now with 30-plus years of perspective on the sport she never stopped loving, brings veteran leadership to the Canadian national wheelchair basketball team.

One of her most pressing challenges? Finding the balance between old school hard discipline, and newer ideas of safe sport, and making that work for a team which combines younger and older athletes, all of whom expect to win international medals at the highest level.

Catching up with Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis, Llanes also explains how uniquely inclusive wheelchair basketball can be. The rules mandate a broad mixture of ability classifications on each team. The meshing together of players with varying degrees of activity limitation brings a whole layer of strategy into play, but the real magic happens  when athletes maximize one another's abilities to find that winning playmaking combo.

Llanes is already rubbing her hands in anticipation of the Para Panam Games this November… and CBC Sports will be delivering comprehensive Paralympic Games coverage across  television, streaming and digital platforms in English and French in 2024.

 

There are transcripts of our podcasts for a hard-of-hearing audience. To listen to Tara Llanes, Chuck Swirsky, Konrad Wasiela, Waneek Horn-Miller, Camryn Rogers, Bev Priestman, Allison Forsyth, Jason Priestley, Mimi Rahneva, Cito Gaston, Robert Parish, Aaron Brown, Kaylyn Kyle, Kurt Browning, Bianca Farella, Summer McIntosh, Beckie Sauerbrunn or any of the guests from earlier seasons, go to CBC Listen or wherever else you get your podcasts.