The Darebin Community Sports stadium will host its first ever Wheelchair Sports Open Day on Sunday. It’s an event that will provide people with a physical disability, their families, and friends the opportunity to participate in clinics run by established wheelchair clubs, and to try out wheelchair sports including wheelchair handball, wheelchair basketball, para badminton, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair AFL.
One of the clubs co-hosting the event is the Darebin City Wheelchair Handball Club.
Player coach and club president Kon Kiryakudya has been involved with wheelchair handball since its inception in Australia in 2006. A passionate advocate of the sport, Kiryakudya says, “For me, it’s soccer with your hands! And I love soccer. That’s what handball is for us, because we’re in chairs and we can’t kick obviously. But because I love soccer, I play handball or soccer with my hands. I’m the midfielder (called the centre in handball). I love it. I’m obsessed with it.”
Kiryakudya was born with cerebral palsy, which affects the motor cortex of the brain and can limit basic skills such as walking. With operations he has learnt to walk. He says that sport has been one of the saviours in his life.
“I’ve been depressed. You go through the hard times, but then you come over it and you grow through that. But I found sport is my saviour. Because I found that being an equal on the court with other people with wheelchairs, with similar disabilities, even when you play against a paraplegic (a person who has just a lower limb disability), I felt myself being equal,” he says.
“I could push past all that sort of thing. Sports at the time when I was younger, saved me from doing other things which were quite negative.”
Kirakudya says that wheelchair handball participants want the sport to be part of the Greek and other communities of Melbourne, and they are reaching out and supporting people to play sport.
He encourages young people with disabilities, their families and friends to go along to the Wheelchair Sports Open Day tomorrow, “jump on chairs and have a go with that sport, and if they like they can join the clubs that are going to be hosting on the day.”
Meanwhile Darebin City Wheelchair Handball Club is looking for new players to join.
Following the open day, the YMCA, which is helping to organise the event, is hoping to start up competitions in a range of wheelchair sports at the Darebin Community Sports stadium.
Kirakudya is aiming for the club to compete in an international tournament in Italy next year as part of the prestigious handball tournament, The Interamnia World Cup.
In the long term, through his role as vice president of the International Wheelchair Handball Federation of Asia and Oceania he’s looking to grow the sport both nationally and internationally throughout the region.
The Wheelchair Sports Open Day takes place on Sunday 29 October at the Darebin Community Sports Stadium (857 Plenty Rd, Reservoir, VIC) from 10.00 am – 2.00 pm.
Those who wish to make a donation to Darebin City Wheelchair Handball Club’s development fund can do so by visiting: https://asf.org.au/donate/darebin-city-wheelchair-handball-club-development-fund