From the moment Rhumbiezai Mulomo was first introduced to wheelchair basketball at Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club, the impact the sport has had on Rhumbiezai has been nothing short of remarkable. So much so that Rhumbiezai says the sport “saved me”.
The 17-year-old’s positivity has lit up wheelchair basketball courts ever since she first started the sport after her physio put her in touch with the Sheffield Steelers around five years ago.
It was love at first sight for Rhumbiezai who has been at the Sheffield Steelers ever since her first session.
“I went there for my first session and absolutely loved it,” Rhumbiezai said. “It was so fast, it was exciting, I remember watching them doing fancy hook shots into the basket and just thinking ‘wow, what did I just witness’. I started off with the Saturday open club sessions and then I was invited to play for the Steelers in Division 4 which was amazing to be part of a team for the first time and play a game.
“I think since I first started the sport, I’ve missed maybe three sessions. I just love everything about it; the sport, the people and I always want to try and improve. My parents know if I don’t want to go to wheelchair basketball then there is something wrong with me because it has become such a huge part of my life.”
‘Wheelchair basketball saved me’
There have been many challenges Rhumbiezai has had to adapt to and overcome since she was born 10 weeks early in 2004.
Speaking alongside Rhumbiezai, her Mum Shirley Samuels said: “Rhumbiezai will often say how wheelchair basketball saved her. She often found it difficult to process her emotions, she had been through a lot when she was little and had struggles at school with them not always being able to manage her disability and her learning needs.
“It was a physio who mentioned to us about the Sheffield Steelers when Rhumbiezai was having physio after an operation. We took Rhumbiezai to a session and she’s not stopped playing wheelchair basketball since.”
Not only has wheelchair basketball become a way for Rhumbiezai to keep active, learn new skills and create many friendships, it’s also helped Rhumbiezai on a personal level.
“I used to get frustrated quite a lot and playing the drums and being part of a samba band was a way to get my anger out as doing that used to really help me control any emotions or feelings I had. But since taking-up basketball that has really helped with this a lot,” Rhumbiezai explained.
“When I’m training or playing wheelchair basketball it allows me to focus on basketball and not worry about anything else and it’s fun to play. I enjoy it and channel any energies or feelings I have into improving and being the best I can be, so basketball has saved me in that way.
“Just being involved in the sport has made me happier and has actually allowed me to express myself more including how I feel.”
Spirit of the Games
Away from wheelchair basketball, Rhumbiezai, who is part of BWB’s DiSE programme, is also studying music at Hillsborough College having gained her Level 2 Sports Coaching last year but it’s on the basketball court where she feels most at home.
Alongside playing for Sheffield Steelers, Rhumbiezai has represented The Bears in BWB Women’s League, and her region at the National Junior Championships and the recent School Games National Finals, where her encouragement and positivity was recognised with the Spirit of the Games Award.
“I love being able to play with my friends and supporting my teammates,” Rhumbiezai said. “Training at Steelers I have been able to train with the Premier Division and Division 1 teams which is amazing being able to train alongside so many good players including players who have represented Great Britain. They’re all so supportive.
“I always love playing in Women’s League and one of the last things I did on court before the lockdowns was score my first ever free throw at Women’s League. I was so happy, it was such an amazing feeling, the whole arena seemed to cheer.
“I do try and keep as positive as I can; I love cheering on my teammates and supporting them. I do probably get too excited at times. The first game I played I was that excited that I had so much adrenaline in my body that I was shaking but once it started it all went and I just focused.”
Determination to succeed
With club sessions halted and leisure facilities closed for many months during the pandemic, Rhumbiezai would travel a one-hour bus journey to one of Sheffield’s parks so she could practice on the park’s basketball court, or do time-trials in her chair from the city centre to the park.
It’s this drive and dedication that Rhumbiezai hopes will help her fulfil her dream of representing Great Britain at a Paralympic Games.
“I knew if I was just sat around the whole time, all the progress I had made was going to disappear and I would have to work to get that back up again, so I thought I’m going to use this time to comeback even better.
“That’s my mindset in life; I’m never going to stop because I believe there’s always things you can improve and work on to get better. My goal is to represent Great Britain, hopefully at a Paralympics, so there’s still a lot of work ahead of me but that’s my dream.”