Kurt Fearnley Scholarship recipient Jessica Cronje is “really excited” to be heading to her first Paralympics as a member of the Australian Gliders Wheelchair Basketball team.
A member of the next generation of Gliders, Cronje will be one player that coach Tom Kyle will be looking to help carry the team into the 2020 Paralympics.
The 22-year-old has long been a fan of basketball and was inspired by watching the Australian Rollers win silver at the London 2012 Games.
Now, after playing with the Gliders since 2015, Cronje is ready to make her own memories when she suits up at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m really excited. This will be my first time going to the Paralympics,” Cronje said.
“It’s been a dream and a goal of mine since I was about 11 or 12 [years old].
“I think that competing at the Paralympics, for me, it’s just the best of the best. It’s as high as you can go in our sport.”
Cronje puts up a shot against the U.S.A at the 2019 IWBF Asia-Oceania Championships in Thailand. (Source: Basketball Australia)
Cronje, who has cerebral palsy, was a part of the Australian women’s Under-25s Devils basketball team that won silver at the world championships in China.
Following on from her success at the Championships was a call-up to the Gliders where she helped the team win bronze at the Osaka Cup in Japan. Her achievements with the Devils and Gliders helped her earn the SWAS Athlete of the Year in 2015 for her achievements in the sport.
Cronje is hopeful that her previous experience at an international tournament will hold her in good stead when she lines up in Tokyo.
“That was my first ever major competition, being at the World Championships,” Cronje added.
“I think it was just an incredible experience being overseas at such a major tournament. It was very exciting and a big, big thing to be a part of.”
Cronje’s all smiles before heading to Tokyo 2020! (Source: supplied)
In 2020, the AMP Foundation’s Tomorrow Fund awarded her $10,000 to help buy a custom-built sports wheelchair that she aimed to use at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
Cronje is also a proud member of the 2020 Kurt Fearnley Scholarship class.
The Kurt Fearnley Scholarship is a partnership between Commonwealth Games Australia and the Carbine Club of NSW. The scholarship is named in honour of para-sport legend Kurt Fearnley AO and provides financial support to talented individual para-sport athletes based in NSW.
The initiative was formed in 2019 and receives training support from the New South Wales Institute of Sport whilst being fully endorsed by Paralympics Australia.
“The scholarship helped me out enormously,” Cronje said
“It allowed me to buy extra specialised equipment that I needed to train and run specialised sessions with my coach.
“It also gave us the opportunity to put in extra work with one on one coaching.”
It’s an exciting time in the world of Wheelchair Basketball after the 3×3 format was added to the roster for the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
It is certainly a noteworthy achievement for the game which will be making its debut at a major multi-sport event in Birmingham next year.
The Commonwealth Games nod marks a rapid rise for 3×3 Wheelchair Basketball after it held its first standalone World Championships in 2020.