Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 04, 2005
U of G Student to Play in Wheelchair Basketball Finals
A University of Guelph student will take part in the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association’s junior nationals tournament being held this weekend in Kitchener.
Mitzi Hepburn, a third-year human kinetics and sports injury management major, is a member of the Burlington Vipers. Her team will compete against six other teams in the Canadian junior finals April 8 to 10 at RIM Park. Junior teams are made up of players under age 22.
“Playing on the team has been really fun, and it has helped me put things in perspective,” said Hepburn, who joined the Vipers in 2004. Most of the players on her team have a variety of disabilities, ranging from spina bifida and cerebral palsy to spinal cord injuries. “After my accident, initially I was really discouraged by the things I couldn’t do. Being on the team has really helped.”
Hepburn, who played basketball and ran track in high school, lost her left leg following a motorcycle accident in July 2003. She and her father, a firefighter in her hometown of Wiarton, were riding a motorcycle when they were struck by a hit-and-run driver in Owen Sound. Her father also lost his left leg, which was amputated just below the knee. “I’m an only child and have always been close to my parents, especially my dad,” she said. “I was ‘daddy’s little girl’ for sure. But now we are even closer than before.”
Hepburn returned to U of G in May 2004 after 10 months of recovery and rehabilitation. She wears a prosthetic leg and uses a cane to get around campus. She found out about the national wheelchair basketball league after meeting another player during Accessibility Awareness Week on campus.
Even though she played basketball in high school, Hepburn said it’s an entirely different game from a wheelchair. “I was a runner, so all of my power came from my legs. I had to build up a lot of upper-body strength to play from a chair. Shooting is also a lot harder — in fact, I still can’t shoot.”
Hepburn works as a trainer with the University’s varsity rugby and volleyball teams as part of the human kinetics program. Before her accident, she planned on becoming a physical therapist after graduation. “But I always said I wasn’t going to teach people to walk after accidents because it would be too depressing. That came back to bite me. Now I plan to become a certified athletic therapist. I want to work with athletes who have disabilities.”
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.