Golden boy MacSorley hopes to inspire more world beaters
Gold medal winning wheelchair basketball player James MacSorley hopes he's just the first Ulsterman among many to represent Great Britain at the highest level after his dream summer with the team.
MacSorley, 23, was part of the first ever Great Britain team to win the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships, and the first Northern Ireland player to represent the national team.
The east Belfast man made his international debut in the tournament and played in five of GB's seven games in Hamburg as they took the gold with a 79-62 win over heavy favourites USA in the final.
It's been a whirlwind rise for MacSorley, who has gone from winning World Junior gold with Great Britain two years ago to being a member of the senior set-up so quickly.
And now, off the back of MacSorley's success, wheelchair basketball is on the rise in Northern Ireland and, thanks to the work of Disability Sport NI's Danny Cooper and funding from Sport NI, there are now four clubs across Northern Ireland dedicated to the sport.
While he's not the first person from Northern Ireland to represent Great Britain - women's star Katie Morrow takes that accolade - MacSorley hopes that he has opened the doors for others to follow his lead.
"It's really cool to make it into the men's team, being the first guy from here especially," MacSorley admitted.
"I thought back in the day it might not be doable because there were a lot of guys who had gone before me who had gone close, some really great players that I've looked up to and still do, so I wasn't sure if it was going to be doable.
"It's nice to know the door is open now, there are plenty of guys coming behind me along the pathway that have a real good chance of getting there.
"There's a guy from north Belfast, Conn Nagle, who's in the Under-22 team for the European Championships this summer - he's far more talented than I was at 17 so he's got a huge chance to be something special.
"It's just cool to know that they know they can do it now."
The Belfast man was welcomed back by family, friends and coaches from Disability Sport NI and his club, the Belfast Knights, at Belfast City Airport yesterday.
Among those in attendance were Knights coach Jason Kennedy and Disability Sport NI's Wheelchair Basketball Performance Director Philip Robinson, who both worked with MacSorley from a young age.
"It was cool to come back and relive the buzz from before, it was so cool to see everyone here who has supported me from DSNI, Sport NI, the Sports Institute, the Knights team and everyone here," MacSorley said.
"It was everyone that I would have had to go round and say thanks to and they were all in one place, and it's like a physical representation of how I got here."
Now is the time for a bit of rest and recuperation, with MacSorley admitting he doesn't want to see a basketball again for another few weeks.
But, after a brief holiday, he'll be straight back onto the court with the next aim being nailing down a squad place for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
"I'm so lucky to be able to do what I do and I don't take it for granted, it is really nice that this can be a job and I'm looking forward to getting back to it," said the 23-year old.
"Once you win something you have that hunger to stay on the top of the mountain, I just want to keep working, keep getting better and see where I go from here.
"I love playing this game, I've been playing since I was six and I'm going to keep doing it, and it's so nice that I'm able to direct all my energy to being good at it."