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Gatluak

 

The charismatic founder of South Sudan's wheelchair basketball team, Gatluak was the team's talisman and star player until war forced him into exile in Ethiopia.

 

Having lost his leg to gunshot wounds during the Sudan civil war, Gatluak was airlifted to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where the Red Cross introduced him to wheelchair basketball. It changed his life for ever.

Gatluak pledged that if ever South Sudan became independent, he would form a national wheelchair basketball team.

In July 2011, two weeks after South Sudan became the world’s newest country, the national wheelchair basketball team was formed.

Despite the continuing challenges of civil war, Gatluak has never lost hope that the team will remain a beacon of hope and unity for the war-torn nation.

 

Gabriel

When 17-year-old Gabriel trod on a land mine, his family feared for his survival.

For five days he was barely conscious, the blood loss so severe that his mother was certain that she had lost her son.

Miraculously, Gabriel recovered. He was flown to a hospital in Kenya, where he had his leg amputated, and from there to Kakuma refugee camp.

At Kakuma, Gabriel was introduced to wheelchair basketball. The sport played a key part in his recovery, and has been central to his life ever since.

Gabriel joined Gatluak to create South Sudan’s national wheelchair basketball team in 2011. Two years later he was forced to return to Kakuma following the outbreak of civil war.

Since 2015, Gabriel has lived in a UN Protection of Civilians camp in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. His love of wheelchair basketball remains undiminished.

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Nyambura

 

The coach of South Sudan’s wheelchair basketball team, Nyambura is a former soldier who discovered a love for basketball as a child in the capital, Juba.

Nyambura was separated from his family by Sudan’s civil war. He was recruited as a soldier at the age of 18, before travelling to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he met and coached the players who were later to form South Sudan’s wheelchair basketball team.

He has trained the team ever since, and had the privilege of being the coach of South Sudan’s first ever national wheelchair basketball team when the country became independent in July 2011.

Nyambura still coaches the team today, helping the players prepare for their first international in 2022.

 

Jess Markt

 

A former college athlete from the US, Jess suffered a horrific back injury as a teenager that meant he would never walk again.

 

Now he is an international wheelchair basketball coach, making it his mission to share his expertise with those who have suffered similar injuries in war-torn parts of the globe.

Jess has coached wheelchair basketball teams across the world. In 2018, we filmed him training the South Sudan team.

He now plans to take the team to its first ever international competition, due to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2022.

 
 

Malat Wei

 

Malat was diagnosed with polio at the age of three.

 

Soon after the diagnosis, war forced him and his family to leave their home in South Sudan.

At first they lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, but were then given sanctuary in the US, where Malat became a member of the national Under-23 wheelchair basketball team.

In 2018, Malat joined Jess to train the team in South Sudan. For Malat, it was an emotional trip back to his home country for the first time since childhood.