Fabio Raimondi is a wheelchair basketball legend, and at 49, he's still making a real difference on the court and as a Wellspect ambassador. He's represented Italy at the Athens 2004 and London 2012 Paralympics, has won five league titles and two European championships with the national team whom he captained for 10 years. He holds the record for most appearances in a blue shirt!
There are plenty of ways to access sport if you are disabled. With support and encouragement, Fabio Raimondi turned his passion into a career. Here he shares his inspirational journey and the joy of competition.
As a child, I was diagnosed with Astrocytoma of the spine. I was a fun loving, active boy, and then I found myself in a wheelchair after surgery at the age of ten.
At the physiotherapy center, I was fortunate to meet a physiotherapist who utilized my love of ball sports and designed a plan with a ball that allowed me to recover my strength and adapt to my new circumstances.
I wanted to do something that would make people talk about Fabio Raimondi!
At the age of eleven, I started attending Bergamo matches, my home team – I was too young to participate in competition, but I had unlimited access to a local gym and sports hall.
I started spending many hours shooting hoops, first up close, and then farther and farther away to score 3 points, even though I was very small for my age. Not being able to use a moped like my peers, I decided to dedicate myself to something that would make people talk about Fabio Raimondi!
The goal I set myself was to make a certain number of baskets from the same position consecutively, then I would allow myself to move farther away from the basket, and hours would pass until I got the results I wanted.
Basketball has been my life and the ball my travel companion
I am very close to my parents; they have always believed in me and supported my passion for sports, and they enabled me to train in peace because they knew how seriously I took it. I always had a ball in my backpack, and when I saw a basketball court, I would stop and shoot hoops to the amazement of everyone there.
I wanted to show "able–bodied" people that I could equal or better them in certain situations, and I was ready to prove it anytime they wanted to challenge me in a shoot out. It was my motivation for many years, and I became a player who is remembered for my ability to shoot and score.
At 16 I participated in my first official championship with Bergamo, and after six months I was called up to the Italian national team to play in the World Cup.
Why am I in love with wheelchair basketball?
I love wheelchair basketball, I feel completely at ease on the pitch, there are no barriers, I can fully express myself and feel free – dribble fast or slow down and be tactical; basketball gives me the opportunity make split–second decisions, I love the adrenalin. Being able to compete with people on an equal footing; no one judges you and sees the wheelchair in these moments, just an opponent who wants to win. And I can always improve some area of my game – that's always satisfying.
What are the benefits of playing a sport?
To me, wheelchair basketball is a passion, then of course there are the physical and mental health benefits. You have to enjoy an activity to be able to stick with it, otherwise it becomes a burden in the long term.
Because wheelchair basketball is a team sport, it puts everyone on the same level and allows you to compete and measure yourself against people who may share your condition – and many who don't! And being together, striving for the same goal, it makes you appreciate how important the sense of belonging to a group is; how important it is to help a teammate achieve a common goal.
Sport presents a challenge, to extend your limits in the pursuit of a win, and this applies to life as well –life will challenge us, so how are you going to meet that challenge? And of course, it has given me some amazing opportunities – I've been all over the world with the national team, and the honor of being able to wear the blue shirt continues to feed my passion.