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Amazing Hannah Dodd Starts a New Chapter in Italy

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Hannah Dodd is simply one of the most amazing athletes and people you could meet.

Born with sacral agenesis and spina bifida, Hannah has surmounted many obstacles to represent Australia in equestrianism at the 2012 London Olympics before competing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics and 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as a wheelchair basketballer.

In Birmingham, she came home with a silver medal to add to her impressive collection of silverware. She finished just outside the top 10 at the London Games in both her riding events.

Hannah Dodd playing for Australia at the Birmingham Games. Picture courtesy Phyllis Dodd

Hannah has this amazing ability to smile and be positive amidst the pain and health issues. This always shines through when she is playing or chatting about her careers on and off the court. The 30-year-old Arcadia-born Paralympian has now started another chapter in her busy life, playing in the tough Italian National Wheelchair Basketball League, alongside her partner of five years, Steven Elliott.

“I am the only female in this team and because of this, I am rated one point, which is lower than the male players which is beneficial to my club, PDM Treviso,” Hannah told the Dooral Roundup from her Italian base.

In wheelchair basketball, players are classified on a points system from 1-4.5. Each team in the league can have a maximum of 14 points, which is total rating of the five players.

“This is the first time Steven and I are playing competitively together and we won our opening match so it’s been a lot of fun so far,” Hannah explained. “Our first game was a little scrappy which is pretty standard so we are happy with the win which put us on the top of the table.

“The Italian league goes on for six months with matches played every weekend so it gives Steven and me a lot of game time which will improve our skills. There will be a four-week break in mid-December but we have no plans of returning home during that time.

“It’s been plenty of fun so far and having the opportunity to play every weekend will be good because Steven needs to get more game time at the international level, which was his main aim when we moved to Italy.

“Playing wheelchair basketball at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games is very different. In the Olympics it is five on five (players) while at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham it was three on three which made it very fast though the game lasted only 10 minutes. So, in reality, I had to fly half away round the world to play only 40 minutes at the Birmingham Games!”

Hannah Dodd in action for Australia. Picture: Courtesy Basketball Australia

Hannah’s degenerative disease means she has to deal with a lot of pain and discomfort while playing but that does not stop her from having a laugh and fun during her competitions.

“I love to have a crack at anything (I fancy) and I have to thank my parents (Brian and Phyllis) for my attitude because they taught me not to be afraid of my disability,” Hannah said. “However, occasionally I think they regret having told me that!

“They have supported me in whatever I have wanted to do and I get my competitive genes from my Dad who was a good rugby union player before he got injured. My mum may not care much about sports but is very supportive.

“Playing in Italy is a very good opportunity for us because it is not every day that you get to play for six months (at one stretch) with matches every week. It will definitely make us better in our games. I am playing with a lot of fun though wheelchair basketball is much more physical here than in Australia.

“I am also very proud of the Australian wheelchair rugby team which won the World Championships (on October 16) because I had played with two of the boys before.”

Yes, the versatile and very competitive Hannah played wheelchair rugby for a few seasons in Sydney. Wheelchair rugby is a very tough sport with no quarters given or asked. This is addition to her turning out for the Sydney Uni Flames women’s plus the Sydney Metro men’s wheelchair basketball teams. Hannah has represented Australia at several competitions including the 2015 International Wheelchair Basketball federation World Championships.

Does she miss riding? “I stopped riding in 2017 when I moved to Queensland for my university and I would miss it if I didn’t play wheelchair basketball,” Hannah said. “What I do miss is the companionship which equestrian brings.”

Hannah is hoping to have another crack at the Commonwealth Games gold when Victoria hosts it in 2026. “I would love to play at this Games but Australia has to first qualify,” she said.

The Italian wheelchair championships is organised by the Italian Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

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