JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 16th Paralympic games wrap up in Tokyo Sept. 5. More than 4,500 athletes representing 163 nations, showing what they can do despite a difference.
Wheelchair basketball is one of 22 sports taking place, and locally, Ryan Prioleau, also known as Coach Pri, has been watching the team closely.
Coach Pri certainly has game himself.
“I like to cross people up and shoot 3s. I’m a really flashy player. There’s really no player like me in wheelchair basketball,” says Prioleau.
When he is on the court, his wheelchair is just the vehicle to get the ball close to the net.
“It’s just like any other athletes. We want to be looked at as athletes, not adaptive athletes. We train just as hard, we practice just as much and we have just as much passion,” says Prioleau.
Coach Pri was born with Spina Bifida.
“I walked at the same age of normal kids, and I wasn’t even expected to live past 3 years old. So, I’ve beaten a lot of odds my whole life,” says Prioleau.
He practices ball three to four times a week and on Thursdays, he’s with the Brooks Ballers at the Brooks Family YMCA. He’s also a fitness trainer, coaches students and he’s got big goals of his own.
“I believe age is just a number. Obviously, I look younger than my age, so I believe I still have a chance and I can keep up with the kids 18 years old,” says Prioleau.
Coach Pri is in his 30s and sees the opportunity to one day be on Team USA in the Paralympics.
The games in Tokyo consist of nearly two weeks of intense competition. Coach Pri has been watching.
“I like the coverage of it. We’ve never had this much coverage as far as adaptive sports on television. I see a lot of people pay more attention to it, asking more questions,” says Prioleau.
Coach said he hopes to motivate everyone to look at what’s possible instead of impossible.
“You can do anything you put your mind to. If you want to be an athlete, go be an athlete. If you want to be a doctor, go be a doctor. Whatever it is that you desire, you’re capable of doing it if you’re able,” Prioleau said.
You can follow Coach Pri on Instagram @prisqoolfoundations43. He’s trying to raise $20,000 right now to create programming to support quality opportunities of life for adaptive athletes.