Never take the easy way out.
It is something Team BC wheelchair basketball co-captain Joel Ewert lives by.
“You know, I never really take no for an answer. I never say I can’t do anything because of my disability, or because I don’t have time, or whatever it is,” said Ewert. “I always find a way.”
Ewert, who has cerebral palsy, grew up in an active family but coming from a northern B.C. city where there weren’t many options for him to be competitive in sport It left him searching for something he could be a part of.
“Then I heard there was wheelchair basketball in town. I went to that first practice and I was committed to it. I have been living the dream ever since,” he said.
Ewert has found his way through the B.C. sport development system. He competed in three B.C. Games, his best finish came at the 2018 Games in Kamloops where the north won the bronze medal and now the 19-year-old is less than one month away from competing in his second Canada Winter Games with Team BC.
“I’m so excited to be going again and getting to live that life of a rockstar for a week. When you are in that Opening Ceremony, there is no feeling like it. Entering with your province, with all your teammates, it is an experience that is unreal.”
Team BC will have a different feel to it than the team that finished in seventh place at the Prince George 2015 Canada Winter Games.
“Though we will have one of the youngest teams in Red Deer, we are aiming for BC’s best results since a silver medal finish in 2003. We will be looking to our veteran players to lead the way for Team BC,” said Simon Cass, Provincial Coach, BC Wheelchair Basketball.
In other words, this will be a squad that needs Ewert’s guidance.
“Ben Hagkull (co-captain) and myself will keep this young team grounded, but we also want to make sure they are enjoying the experience. It is finding that balance of taking in the Games and not being too tense but also being focused. This is an experience that not many people get to have in their lives and we have to take advantage of it,” said Ewert.
Even though it is his second Canada Winter Games, it will be a completely different experience than when his hometown hosted in 2015.
“In Prince George everyone was in the stands cheering for us from my Kindergarten teacher and my auntie to my friends. It will be different in Red Deer because the crowd will not be so much on our side, but I plan on silencing them,” he said.
With Paralympic aspirations, wheelchair basketball isn’t the only sport where he rules the court. He became intrigued with wheelchair rugby four years ago and continues to strive to compete at a high level. It was following the 2015 Games that wheelchair rugby coaches took notice of Ewert. Almost one year later he found himself competing at the 2016 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Championships. His team made it to the gold medal game, but were edged out by the Ontario Thunder.
Between training for the two sports, Ewert also has also squeezed in the time to be a first year, post-secondary student — studying pre-med at the University of Northern B.C.
While that in itself is a huge load of work, for now his focus is on one thing.
“I just want to bring home a medal for B.C.”