From the country town of Horsham in Victoria to the heights of American wheelchair basketball, Jannik Blair is a star in the making.
Jannik first started playing wheelchair basketball in 2005, making his National Wheelchair Basketball League debut with the Dandenong Rangers. His impressive form as a one-pointer caught the interest of Australian men’s wheelchair basketball coach Ben Ettridge, and soon made his Australian debut in 2009 at the Asia Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Dandenong, which he considers one of his proudest moments.
Since then, Jannik has cemented himself as a key member of the Rollers, and has contributed to the team’s success at the Rollers World Challenge series against Canada in 2009, the 2011 Wheelchair Basketball Tri-Series against South Africa and the 2011 Asia Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Korea, as well as the London 2012 Paralympic Games where he helped the team win a silver medal.
Ever the country boy, Jannik was 12-years-old when he was driving his grandfather’s ute in a dirt paddock when it flipped and rolled. Not wearing his seatbelt, Jannik fell out of the window and broke his back and wrist and suffered a collapsed lung. Jannik was then placed in an induced coma for a week before enduring three months of rehabilitation, where he was introduced to wheelchair sport by rehabilitation worker and closer friend Campbell Message.
Seeing how sport had changed Campbell’s life after acquiring paraplegia through a similar accident, Jannik embraced the opportunity to get involved in sport and began participating in Para-triathlons, wheelchair basketball, Para-table tennis and wheelchair tennis.
Having previously been exposed to wheelchair basketball through his primary school, Jannik found himself gravitating towards the sport and after attending an APC Paralympic Talent Search Day in Ballarat in 2006, his natural talent was confirmed and his life took a new path.
Nicknamed ‘The Bizzness,’ Jannik is currently studying International Business at the University of Missouri and plays wheelchair basketball for Alabama in the American Wheelchair Basketball Association. While he has had a flourishing career both in Australia and internationally, he admits that his most embarrassing moment came after winning the national championships with his US team in 2013. While cutting down the basketball net as per the winner’s tradition, Jannik’s shorts fell off and he was left hanging from the ring exposed to a crowded stadium.
When he isn’t training for Rio, Jannik loves to play table tennis and chess and loves to wind down by listening to his favourite radio station, Triple J.