Abby Dunkin is a basketball player, no matter what life throws at her.
Dunkin, a New Braunfels native, is a member of the USA wheelchair basketball team. She’s currently in Rio to compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games.
Dunkin didn’t start playing wheelchair ball until about three years ago – she grew up playing able-bodied basketball. When she was 13, she was diagnosed with a nerve pain disorder. Dunkin was able to manage her pain on her own until her junior year of high school, when some treatments didn’t go as planned.
“I woke up one morning not able to use my legs like normally, and so it resulted in me using a wheelchair,” Dunkin says. “I couldn’t give up the game of basketball.”
After she saw a video of the women’s wheelchair team at the London 2012 Paralympics, Dunkin decided she wanted to try the sport. Because of her family’s military background, Dunkin was able to start practicing with Wounded Warriors at Fort Sam Houston.
“I was actually not a little, [but] a lot freaked out at first,” Dunkin says. “These guys were twice my size and twice my age. They’re coming in one leg, no legs, one arm, whatever. And I’m coming in, scrawny, 16-, 17-years-old, not knowing what I was doing.”
Despite feeling intimidated at first, Dunkin said she and the veterans grew to feel like family.
“It was really neat to connect with them on a different level and see that kind of a new perspective on the game – and life, honestly,” Dunkin says. “You take a lot of things for granted.”
She played with many of them on the San Antonio ParaSport Spurs Wheelchair Basketball team before the University of Texas at Arlington recruited her. After attending an Olympic development camp, Dunkin played on the 2015 USA National Wheelchair Basketball Team and competed at the 2015 ParaPan American Games in Toronto.
Now, Dunkin is competing at her first Paralympics. She and the rest of Team USA take on France today. NBC airs the game tomorrow.
“Three years ago I didn’t even know any of this existed, and now it’s just this brand new chapter that’s being written,” Dunkin says. “It’s been a blessing in disguise.”