Australian wheelchair basketballer and Griffith University student Matt McShane’s unflappable approach to life is strikingly evident as he describes the condition that rendered him a paraplegic at 18.
“I had a bad day,” says the Gold Coaster of the neurological condition transverse myelitis, which causes inflammation of the spinal cord and led to Matt spending nine months in hospital and life thereafter in a wheelchair.
“I grew up playing sport and was always active, and then it happened. The thing is, it didn’t really get me down that much,” he says.
“There were plenty of people worse off than me in the hospital, and while it was hardly the most fun time of my life, I had good support to get me through.
“After that, getting my car fitted out so I could drive again was important for my sense of independence, and I was playing basketball in a Gold Coast social comp two months after leaving hospital.”
Now 25, basketball has turned out to be Matt’s ticket to see the world and he hopes his next major destination will be Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympics in September.
Matt was part of the Australian Rollers wheelchair basketball team that qualified for Rio after winning a gold medal at the recent Asia Oceania Zone qualifying tournament in Japan.
If selected for Rio it will be Matt’s first Paralympics — having first been called up to the Australian squad in November 2014 — and he is determined to do everything to keep his spot on the team.
He is equally determined to succeed in his university studies and is about to begin the third year of a Bachelor of Industrial Design degree at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus.
Industrial Design brings together engineering and design, combining engineering principles, creative thinking, digital media and digital manufacturing.
“I was working in the automotive industry, but wanted something new. Industrial Design appealed to me because it offers a combination of creativity and functionality through amazing technology such as 3D printing,” he says.
“I’d like to get into product design and manufacturing in some form. Maybe I can 3D print my own wheelchair, in titanium for extra strength.
“Basketball takes a heavy toll on our chairs and they’re not cheap. I’m already onto my third so it would be good to have a 3D printer handy.”
Matt is a member of the Griffith Sports College, which helps elite athletes balance the demands of sport and study.