Wheelchair basketball world champion Jack Perry on playing for Great Britain and his Paralympic dream
The former Sawston Village College and Hills Road Sixth Form College pupil has enjoyed great success.
No-one can fault the ambitions of Jack Perry.
In 2011, when he was 15, he wrote an article setting his sights on earning a place in the Great Britain wheelchair basketball squad for the Rio Paralympics.
Now, while that may have been slightly ambitious for the then Bury Bombers youngster, the intervening years suggest that 21-year-old Perry is on the right course for success.
The plane to Brazil may have gone without him, but he is now a world champion with Great Britain, and was top points scorer in their historic victory.
Perry sunk 130 points at the Under-23 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Canada in June this year as Great Britain won the competition for the first time.
The former Sawston Village College and Hills Road Sixth Form College student also received glowing reports of his performances at the championships and, to add to a successful year, has been included on the list of athletes in the sport to receive elite funding from UK Sport.
“When I wrote the article, I wrote that my goal was Rio 2016 which, as it has come about, seems quite ambitious, if I’m honest,” said Trumpington-based Perry, who plays at small forward.
“At the time, when I was 15, that was what I thought. I have continued on that dream to play for GB and I have succeeded in doing that at junior level. I just want to now transfer all that into the senior side.
“It’s a very competitive set-up, there is quite a big selection of players coming through the juniors – we’re the best junior side in the world.
“And it’s trying to push from that into the senior team, and even outside that, players who have just got too old for the juniors and are now trying to get into the seniors.
“It’s really competitive, especially in my position.
“We have some of the best players in the world in my position, and they have been for many years. They are coming towards the end of their careers though, I’m hoping.”
And you would not bet against Perry making that transition, although it has not always been smooth progress.
Having gone to study history at the University of Leeds, Perry, who has Perthes’ Disease – the top of the thigh bone in the hip joint loses its blood supply and so the bone is damaged – has had to contend with a number of injuries, including a bicep injury in his first year and then shoulder surgery in his second.
It did not prevent him co-captaining the Great Britain under-22 team to success at the Champions Cup in Japan, but did deny him the opportunity to play in the Junior Wheelchair Basketball European Championships this January, where Britain won silver.
But he has managed to sustain a good level of competition for his club side, Oldham Owls, who have won the NL Premier Division for the last three years in a row.
“We’ve dominated the league for the last three years, we’ve only lost a couple of games,” said Perry. “But we focus on the European competitions that happen twice a year.
“Basically, all the teams in Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey are professional, so all the GB players or those at GB standard end up playing abroad and getting professional contracts.
“That obviously means the league here – which is not professional – drops in standard in comparison to European teams.
“It makes it difficult but because we’re the best team in England, we’ve done quite well in European club competitions over the last three years. It’s been our main goal each year to go to these teams and play against these professional outfits, which is always a good experience.”
And it is something that Perry will be looking to build on this year, when he will be a full-time athlete for the first time, thanks to lottery funding.
But while that will take care of his travel and living expenses, he is still hoping to raise sponsorship for a new wheelchair as his current one is more than four years old. “The chair I have I’ve had since I was 17, and I’ve got quite a bit bigger since then and it is falling apart a little bit,” said Perry.
“I did some filming for television and just as soon as I got there, my straps fell off my chair and I had to spend the first half-hour getting my Allen key and screwdriver putting it back together.
“The set up of the chair you can change quite significantly in subtle ways to your playing style. I sit quite far back and the seat is quite slack which means the power I generate doesn’t go into the ball so well.
“You can alter your chair to change your playing style and how it affects your movement quite considerably. But it’s not altering that specific chair, you would need to get a new chair that has had the alterations.”
As with everything else, it seems few alterations are needed as Perry seems destined to fulfil his Paralympic dreams, maybe four years later than optimistically hoped.