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THE WILL TO WIN: Variety teen embraces wheelchair sport

The 2022 version of the Solar Christmas Fund for Selection Village begins as we speak — let’s preserve serving to Selection’s children dwell their desires

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In case you ought to likelihood upon Selection Village at 7 o’clock one morning, you would possibly discover Ibrahim Odza on a basketball court docket within the fieldhouse.

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Alone, as town awakes round him, the 13-year-old runs free throw and layup drills, spin after spin, shot after shot, getting higher and higher.

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Two years in the past, Ibrahim was a nimble soccer child who dreamed of being Messi, the good Argentine captain.

Then a tumour in his backbone exploded.

Now, Ibrahim nonetheless chases a dream — however in wheelchair basketball.

“I’ve by no means requested, ‘Why me?’” he says.

“I imply, if I can’t stroll, I can’t stroll. There’s no level pouting as a result of I’m on this wheelchair. It’s a waste of time. Why would I try this, after I can play basketball?”

Which brings us again to the gymnasium, hours after Ibrahim’s daybreak exercise. The Selection Village Rolling Rebels are practising. They’ve dominated wheelchair basketball in Toronto and past for some three a long time. They’re making ready to renew full competitors post-COVID.

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Over the a long time of the Solar Christmas for Selection Village I’ve launched you to Rebels of renown, together with: Adam Lancia, a two-time Paralympics gold medalist. Abdi Dini, the child who survived a gunshot wound in war-torn Somalia and grew as much as be an icon on our nationwide workforce. Shayne Smith, who later switched sports activities and made Canada’s Paralympic wheelchair rugby workforce — and there’s a sport not for the faint of coronary heart.

Ibrahim Odza appears destined to achieve related heights. His climb has been particularly steep and swift.

When COVID arrived, the Odza household was visiting kin in Macedonia. Ibrahim, a speedy soccer star in a Scarborough home league, had quickly joined a workforce within the historic (4th century) metropolis of Bitola.

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Ibrahim Odza, 13, playing soccer pre-surgery.
Ibrahim Odza, 13, enjoying soccer pre-surgery. Picture by Provided /Toronto Solar

Pandemic journey bans prolonged the Odzas’ keep, however in any other case all appeared effectively.

Then, Ibrahim’s again harm. Soccer harm, they thought. Subsequent, he began limping. Lastly, his bladder stop. An MRI revealed a tumour smaller than a dime had hemorrhaged midway down his backbone.

Macedonian surgeons saved him, however as a paraplegic. His soccer dream was achieved.

Ibrahim tried, he actually tried. Again dwelling, he plunged into rehab at Holland Bloorview hospital. Nonetheless, the wheelchair stays.

“He by no means put his head down, he by no means complained,” says Faton Odza, his dad. “The wonderful factor is you don’t should. You possibly can proceed your life and good issues will nonetheless occur for you.”

Which they did for Ibrahim.

Holland Bloorview put him in a sports activities wheelchair and he whipped his dad in a race.

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“I may see in his face at that second how joyful he was,” says Faton. “He likes to win.”

Says his son: “I’m very aggressive.”

They despatched him to Selection Village, the place he met Steve Bialowas, legendary skipper of the Rolling Rebels, and a longtime nationwide workforce coach.

“Let’s see you dribble,” stated Bialowas.

“He’s by no means touched a basketball,” stated Ibrahim’s dad.

“Doesn’t matter,” stated Steve. “Let him play.”

That was simply 10 months in the past.

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In February, Ibrahim might be with Group Ontario on the Canada Video games in Prince Edward Island, seemingly the youngest participant there.

“Unbelievable child,” says Jesse McNalley, who’s filling in as Rebels coach for an ailing Bialowas. “I can’t imagine how good he’s on the court docket.

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“I imply, he’s 13. His drive to get higher is the strongest I’ve ever seen. I can image him on the Paralympics sooner or later.”

I might not wager towards this child. These early morning further reps have quickly raised his recreation. His darkish eyes shine with the need to win. You possibly can see it, even at a observe.

That perspective already has introduced him removed from the working room in Macedonia.

“What do I miss?” he says. “Not a lot, actually. Certain, it was arduous at occasions and, certain, I miss soccer, however I’ve simply transitioned to a different sport and I prefer it higher. Issues are good.”


“That’s life,” he tells me, in a break from observe. “It was simply one thing to beat.

“So, I overcame it.”


Mike Strobel is back again this year with his annual Toronto Sun Christmas Fund in support of Variety Village and poses with one of his many good friends synchronized swimmer Kyra Menzie at Variety Village in Scarborough on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
Mike Strobel is again once more this 12 months together with his annual Toronto Solar Christmas Fund in help of Selection Village and poses with one among his many good associates synchronized swimmer Kyra Menzie at Selection Village in Scarborough on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Picture by Jack Boland /Toronto Solar/Postmedia Community


Each child at Selection Village has desires and objectives. Ibrahim Odza’s are of wheelchair basketball glory.

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For different children, they’re of black belts in taekwondo, or of greatest occasions within the swimming pool, or of simply strolling from A to B, or of standing unaided.

Certainly, Selection has as many desires because it has children. You possibly can assist make them come true.

The 2022 version of the Solar Christmas Fund for Selection Village begins as we speak.

Over the approaching weeks, I’ll introduce you to extra Selection stars — of all ages — and their desires.

Simone Randmaa, age 15, is a huge sports fan and likes playing basketball, swimming and likes singing Celine Dion songs. She was firing in buckets galore and even Mike Strobel couldn't defend against her accuracy on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
Simone Randmaa, age 15, is a large sports activities fan and likes enjoying basketball, swimming and likes singing Celine Dion songs. She was firing in buckets galore and even Mike Strobel couldn’t defend towards her accuracy on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Picture by Jack Boland /Toronto Solar/Postmedia Community

Final 12 months, we raised a report $117, 124 for the long-lasting and inclusive sports activities centre in Scarborough that caters to children with disabilities.

That may be a big sum to match in glum financial occasions, but you’ve stepped up by thick and skinny over the a long time.

The Christmas Fund’s tally so far is sort of $1.7 million.

See Web page 3 of the Sunday Solar. Or, you may donate direct at sunchristmasfund.ca.

Let’s preserve serving to Selection’s children dwell their desires.

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