At the age of 10, Christian Seidel needed a wheelchair, and in doing so, he found a new active community in wheelchair basketball. The sport has been a big part of his life ever since – and now it is once again taking him overseas. According to Christian, it is sponsorships such as Wellspect’s that make it possible for him and many others to realize their dreams of having a professional career.
Christian was an active and happy little boy who loved playing football with his friends. But the older he got, the harder it was for him to move around like the other children. When he turned 10, he got his first wheelchair. But it has not prevented Christian Seidel from becoming a professional athlete – quite the opposite!
31-year-old Christian was born with the disease Spina Bifida. A congenital defect in the spine which causes problems with mobility as well as bladder and bowel dysfunctions.
“I tested until I fell and then I learned my limitations the hard way.”
“It was actually not that difficult to learn how to use the chair, because I was never afraid of falling. I tested until I fell and then I learned my limitations the hard way. So, by not being afraid and just daring to challenge myself, which basketball really helped me to do, I got to know the chair rather quickly”, Christian says.
Discovering parasports and basketball
It was his mother who more or less forced Christian to start in the parasports association FIFH in Malmö when he got his wheelchair. Basketball was the first sport that Christian tried, and now it is already 21 years since he played his first basketball game.
“After just four or five months, I had gotten to know my wheelchair very well. It was almost perfect for me to start the activity parallel to getting to know my wheelchair”, Christian says.
It didn’t take long before Christian's career took off. Already at the age of 13, he won his first Swedish championship in his first season in the league. When he was 15 years old, he was handpicked for his first national team meeting and attended in Turkey when Sweden won bronze in the European championship – and qualified for the World Cup in France the following year.
“It was a huge experience to be with the national team abroad. It was the first time I went on an airplane so far away from home, and then to win bronze with the team... It was a really great experience!”
After that, Christian got many more titles on his CV. He has won gold in the European championship in Italy, silver in England, silver in the world championship in Turkey and much more.
Besides the national team, where Christian played for 16 years, he has played in both Germany, Italy, the USA and Spain.
In Italy he met another player who had just graduated from a university in the United States, where he had simultaneously played the sport at the highest level.
“That's how I was introduced to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. And so, I decided to go there and see what it was all about. I loved it immediately, decided to apply and was accepted.”
Christian stayed in the US for five years and trained in the university's Health and Human Performance program. He played for his university team while in college, where he helped win two college titles and made the playoffs all five years in a row.
“Suddenly I was sitting there playing against the very best.”
“I also got the chance to play with and against some of the very best players in the world. It's something I dreamed about when I was a child back home in Sweden – to see the real stars play would be great. And to imagine playing against them in the future... It was totally unthinkable. But suddenly I was just sitting there playing against the very best. It's crazy to think about.”
After a trip back to Europe during the corona pandemic, Christian has again settled in America, where he has been given the opportunity to play with his old team and at the same time start his master's degree.
But for how long will the 31-year-old Swede dedicate his life to wheelchair basketball?
“The day I can go into a game and for an entire match, for an entire season, never miss a shot, then I will finish... And that will never happen”, says Christian and laughs.
"It means that you can always improve. And as long as I have that mindset and the drive that I can either develop myself or teach others to become better, I will keep going. For as long as I'm having fun – and I still am!”
Wellspect is an official sponsor of the IWBF, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, and as a professional player and former coach, Christian knows how important it is for the sport that companies like Wellspect provides financial support.
“Sponsorships mean more than anything else. You may not see it directly, but the contribution from sponsors makes it possible for a beginner who starts in England, Sweden or Denmark to be able to afford to practice the sport. That's how I got my own chair for wheelchair basketball”, says Christian and continues:
“And now, after 21 years, I can continue to play and achieve everything I have managed to achieve throughout my career. It happened because someone chose to sponsor my team back then. So maybe you don't see it right away, but it is an investment in the future. It's like planting a tree – it may take time, but eventually it will prosper.