Belfast Telegraph

A first for NI as James chosen to play for the GB wheelchair basketball team

By Gillian Halliday

He was a star of local wheelchair basketball - and now James MacSorley has become the first person from Northern Ireland to play internationally for Great Britain.

The Belfast man, who has played the sport since he was six, will travel with his team-mates to Germany next month to play in the 2018 World Wheelchair Championships.

Mr MacSorley (23), who was born with spina bifida, became a professional wheelchair player last year after moving to Sheffield, where Team GB have their training facilities.

Twice recipient of the NI Disabled Sportsman of the Year award, he made the move after graduating from Queen's University with a degree in Spanish and law.

"It's the weirdest thing in the world," he said of his elevation to international competition.

"People have said to me: 'This has been your dream for years'. I've thought at times it was unachievable.

"I could have stayed in Belfast but I decided to go full-time, to go professional."

One of his driving forces was his mother Anne, who was tragically killed in a traffic accident in 2005 at the age of 40.

A pharmacist, she encouraged her son and daughter Eimear, who was also born with spina bifida, not to let the condition prevent them from pursuing their dreams.

That led the siblings to take up wheelchair basketball with Belfast club The Knights. Mr MacSorley said he owed everything to his mum and his dad Michael, who is a doctor.

"I do this for her and my dad because they believed in me," he explained.

"My mum, for the short time that she was around, taught me a lot.

"Moments like this I do think about her."

His other big inspirations are his 24-year-old sister, who was NI Disabled Sportswoman of the Year in 2014, and his girlfriend Anna Caskey (23), a law graduate who he lives with in Sheffield.

The pair met at Aquinas Grammar School in Belfast.

The wheelchair sportsman is full of praise for his supportive partner.

"I'm so fortunate. I couldn't have done any of this without her. She's very determined and that inspires me," he said.

Both Anna and Eimear will be travelling to Germany for the Championships, held from August 16-26.

Unfortunately, his father is unable to attend due to work commitments, but will be able to watch the games streamed live online.

"Months ago he asked me whether or not he should book the time off to go to the championships," he explained.

"But I honestly didn't think I'd get selected, so I told him not to worry."

However, he was happily proven wrong, and now the big Manchester United fan has thrown all his efforts into the intensive GB training schedule.

"It's Monday to Thursday training at the minute, between five to six hours, gym sessions, one-on-one skill sessions with the coach, team meetings, physio," he explained.

"It's fairly full-on. I wouldn't ever complain about it, though. I'm really lucky."

Although now a member of the Sheffield Steelers club, he still maintains strong links with the Knights.

"They're incredible. None of this would have happened without them," he said.

And the local team members no doubt will be following closely GB's performance in Hamburg, where they will go up against South Korea in their opening game.

"We're a good young team with a great mix of players," said Mr MacSorley of their chances in the competition.

"Team USA are the ones we have to watch."

Longer term, he has his sights on the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan. "That's the ultimate goal, making it into the men's GB team."

Belfast Telegraph

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