By Hayley Wildes
Bailey Jankovic could’ve decided it was all too hard. He could’ve given up.
Instead, he adapted and found a new way to compete, and excel, at the sport he loves.
Fifteen-year-old Berwick local, Bailey was born eight weeks premature and lives with cerebral palsy. Up until last year, he was playing basketball in able-bodied competitions, but since transitioning to wheelchair basketball, he has truly found his calling.
“I played able-bodied basketball for about five seasons and as I got to around Under-16s, they were getting too fast and strong for me.” Bailey said.
“I thought I’d give wheelchair basketball a go, to see if I could actually keep up and become the person I wanted to be, but in wheelchair basketball.”
Just nine months after taking up wheelchair basketball, Bailey is making a name for himself and last month represented Victoria in the Kevin Coombs Cup – the national championship for wheelchair basketball in Australia.
After a tough selection process, Bailey was named in the Victorian squad.
“I was so pumped.” Bailey said of finding out he made the squad. “I got an email and it was the best feeling in the world.”
The tournament took place in Geelong at the Australian Junior Championships. Bailey and his Victorian teammates took home the Gold medal, defeating Western Australia, 68-60, in the Grand Final.
Despite trailing at half time, Bailey said the team never lost faith.
“Even though we were down [at half time], we just felt like we had the momentum going into the second half and especially when it reached the third quarter.” He said.
“When we tied it up in the third, the roar of the crowd was just amazing – it went straight through me. Then when we scored again to hit the front, it was even louder.”
The highlight of the tournament for Bailey was an easy choice.
“Receiving my gold medal at the closing ceremony – it was so amazing.” Bailey said.
“I got the fortune of meeting Mr Kevin Coombs, who is the founder of the cup, so it was really grouse meeting him and saying, ‘Thank you so much for what you’ve done’.”
Bailey began playing wheelchair basketball in an old chair and since receiving his new chair – of which was purchased with the help from community fundraising – his improvement has been immense.
“Without the wheelchair I have now, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my skills as quickly as I have.” Bailey said.
“I just want to thank the community so much because I would’ve had an older, heavier chair and I wouldn’t have been able to develop so quickly.”
Bailey also wanted to thank all his mentors, coaches, teammates and supporters that have helped him along the way.
“They know who they are – I have heaps of mentors and I just want to thank them all.”
You can follow Bailey’s story at facebook.com/baileyjankovicwb.