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How did you lose your leg?

I lost my leg at age 15 from a “freak” basketball accident that caused a very aggressive cancerous bone tumor. Three years later, I was playing basketball again, only this time in a wheelchair.

Who got you back on the court and playing wheelchair basketball?

I met a bunch of disabled veterans at the VA hospital in Puerto Rico and they invited me to play… [I do it] for the challenge and love of the sport.

What team do you play for and how long have you been with them?

The Cretan Eagles, off and on for four years over an eight-year period. They banned foreigners for about four years, and just now changed back. I do know my teammates fought to get me back on the team.

What are the physical requirements to play on the team?

Players must be handicapped (such as) paralysis, an amputee or other debilitating illness.

You’re 51, but not the oldest member of your team? What’s the range of ages for your teammates?

Eighteen to 55

What’s the toughest part of wheelchair basketball?

Everything: The basket is the regulation 10 feet. You need to maneuver the ball and keep the wheel chair moving at the same time. Wheelchairs collide on a very frequent basis and spills are not uncommon.

How’s the competition? Are there some teams out there that are really good that you guys dread — or really look forward to — playing?

We are not in the top rankings of the league and all games are hard. The last four games have been against the top teams in Greece; however, we still look forward to all of them. Win or lose, we are there to play ball.

Have your games only been in Greece or elsewhere in Europe?

The team has played outside of Greece; however, the rules currently state I am not allowed to play on those occasions. I can represent the team however I cannot represent Greece.

Have you played in any tournaments?

In my younger days in Puerto Rico, I competed with many Latin American countries in the Pentathlon category (five events) for the Puerto Rican National Team. Since being in Greece, I have participated in three of the Greek championship tournaments and we usually finish in the middle of the pack, 5th to 7th of 12.

Interview by Jason Chudy.

John A. Taylor

Age: 51

Title: Only American on a Greek wheelchair basketball team

Day job: Business and financial operations director at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete, for the past 8½ years

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to news@mail.estripes.osd.mil.

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