Wheelchair basketball has given Michelle Moganedi a purpose.
Born as an abled person in the early 2000s, it was back in December 2018 that Moganedi’s mobility state changed after she sustained a T12 – L3 injury.
It was not an immediate assertion that she'd be paraplegic, having spent a week in hospital and three months at the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park.
And while she was holding her breath during the three months, hoping she’d regain her mobility, it was then and there that her passion for basketball was ignited.
That, too, didn’t come with spending too much time on video games. Instead, her physiotherapists, which include Stacey and Ruwayda, introduced her into the sport she never knew existed.
“My basketball journey started at rehab. My physiotherapist told me there was this sport called wheelchair basketball. I never knew about it before! Moganedi explained.
“I was supposed to do it for rehab. And during my rehab time we would go to the court and play. And I was like ‘this is interesting hey. People can play basketball in their wheelchairs’.”
And it was then that what turned out to be a routine rehab exercise became a newly found passion. Another twist in the tale for Moganedi who had a lot of plans before her injury.
While she was able, Moganedi wanted to be a medical doctor and play for Banyana Banyana someday. Yet today, she's a third year extraction metallurgy student and a wheelchair basketball player.
The latter hasn’t only given Moganedi a new sense to life, though, instead it has shown her that the world is her oyster as long as she dares to ‘live the impossible’.
“Basketball showed me that you are not limited and the only thing that can limit you is yourself. Anything is possible. You must just find what you love,” she said.
Moganedi hasn’t only found what she loves. She’s gone on to etch her name in the history books of sports, globally, through this code she never knew existed.
Last year, Moganedi was selected to represent SA at the IWBF Afro World Championships in Ethiopia and captained the SA 3 on 3 wheelchair basketball team at Commonwealth Games in the UK, finishing fifth.
Those caps, which also include being one of only two African representatives, alongside Egypt’s Alhassan Sedky, at the IWBF players’ commission, earned her the 2022 University of Johannesburg Sportswoman of the Year award.
The 22-year-old's achievements have boiled over to this year that she was part of the SA senior women’s wheelchair basketball team that took home the silver medal at the African Para Games last month in Ghana.
And that was not all. Under her leadership, the SA U25 women’s wheelchair basketball team bagged a 10th place finish at the IWBF World Championships in Thailand, Bangkok this month.
So given, she might not fulfil the dream of playing with her Banyana idol and look-alike Refiloe Jane, but she’s the captain of a national team just like she is. And that’s something she is not taking for granted at all.
“It’s something that’s big. I am here because of my wheelchair. It has given me a purpose and made me a better person entirely,” Moganedi said.
Moganedi is indeed becoming a better person by the day - she's not only focusing on making a name for herself but for those around her as well.
Her teammates flocked to the media area to support her during interviews at their celebratory lunch which was organised by sponsors Sasol at the Radisson Hotel, Kempton Park, after their exploits in Bangkok.
“It’s tough (being the captain at times) because everyone has their problems back at home. Some days are easier than others,” Moganedi explained.
“But we all have a common ground. We all know what we are here for when we are together. We know how to put our problems aside or talk about them.”