Frequently described as the ‘future of wheelchair basketball in Australia,’ Darwin teenager Tom O’Neill-Thorne has his eyes set on making his Paralympic debut with the Rollers at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
A world-class wheelchair basketballer from a young age, Tom experienced a rapid rise to the top of his sport after becoming the youngest ever member of the Rollers squad after helping the team win their second consecutive world title at the 2014 IWBF World Championships in South Korea.
The win with the Rollers capped off a whirlwind twelve months for Tom, which included a breakout NWVL season under his belt, where he scored an average of 17.1 points per game as a key player in the Queensland Spinning Bullet’s offence as well as winning Australian Male Junior Wheelchair Basketballer of the Year and NT Junior Sportperson of the Year.
He finished his 2013 by leading the Australian Spinners to a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships in 2013 and then joined the Australian Rollers for the 2013 Asia-Oceania Championships, a tournament that the Rollers won to qualify for the World Championships.
With his skills increasing as fast as his profile within the sport, Tom was accepted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame 2015 Scholarship and Mentoring Program, an award given to just five aspiring athletes under the age of 21 to help them reach the highest levels of their sport.
Born with arthrogyposis, a congenital condition that affects the mobility of his legs, Tom has used a wheelchair since the age of two. He first got involved with wheelchair basketball at the age of nine, when a local competition was established for children with and without a disability.
Tom pursued his passion for the sport through the Queensland Junior team and the Australian development squad at the AIS, and three years later, gained a starting five position in the Queensland Spinning Bullets National League Team under the watchful eye of current coach Tom Kyle.
Outside of wheelchair basketball, Tom has completed his level 1 referees course which has enabled him to referee both wheelchair and able-bodied basketball and he looks forward to one day helping other young athletes with a disability pursue their passions.