Tara Llanes shows her leadership with women’s wheelchair basketball team

Canadian Paralympic Committee

June 15, 2023

Shares experiences on and off the court


Tara Llanes admits she is still trying to find her role with the women’s national wheelchair basketball team but it’s a good bet her long career in sports is a huge benefit to the squad both on and off the court.

‘’I’ve had a lot of life experience and I’ve competed in a lot of different sports at a pretty high level,” said the 46-year-old North Vancouver resident in her sixth season with the national team. ‘’I think that’s something I can help bring to the team: what I’ve seen over the years in the things that work and the things that maybe don’t work.’’

The U.S. born Llanes was a professional mountain biker when she was injured at a competition in 2007 which caused paralysis. She and her Canadian partner at the time moved up north to B.C. afterwards but sport was put on the back burner for six years as she adjusted to a new life.

‘’It took me five to six years to really find sport again and find the passion for it,” said Llanes, who sells adaptive mountain bikes off the court. ‘’When I did, it was just sort of like the foot on the gas.”

Her first sport after the accident was wheelchair tennis in which she enjoyed incredible success earning a singles and doubles national title. She wanted to improve her speed in the chair and was directed to play wheelchair basketball.

‘’Once I started to play and was on the court with other players, I realized how much I missed being part of a team,” said Llanes, who played team sports in high school growing up in California. “Travelling with the team, doing really stupid stuff with your teammates, and all those little moments in between.

‘’Then I made the jump.’’

This week she is competing at her second world championships, being held in Dubai. Llanes helped Canada to gold at the 2019 Parapan American Games and went to her first Paralympic Games two years ago in Tokyo where Canada was fifth.

While she is the oldest player on the team, she admits younger players have played the sport longer which makes her hesitant about a leadership role.

‘’I learn a lot from them,” she said about her teammates. ‘’I try to ask them a lot of questions but I’m trying to sort of find my role and voice on the team, so that when I’m on court I can help to be a leader and hopefully give some nuggets of wisdom here and there.’’

‘’You’re trying to find this dynamic of being a leader without telling somebody what to do.’’

Perhaps it’s that sensitivity that is the nugget that makes Llanes an ideal role model for the team.

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