SHOULD wheelchair basketball player Ben Fox complete his ‘ultimate goal’ of competing at Tokyo 2020, he’ll have one person to thank for his peculiar route into the sport.

Swindon-born Fox, who won the European Championships with his team in Poland earlier this year, met the man who introduced him to the sport when stopping at a service station on the way to Old Trafford to watch his beloved Arsenal play Manchester United as a 10-year-old.

That man was British Paralympian Sinclair Thomas, with one small conversation starting a turbulent journey for Fox that he hopes will culminate in selection for the Paralympic Games next year.

“We stopped at a service station for a break, Sinclair rolled down his car window after he saw me on one leg and asked me if I wanted to play wheelchair basketball,” the 24-year-old nostalgically recalled, while speaking at a Sainsbury’s store in Swindon.

“I said ‘sure’ – I’d never seen it before or even knew it was a thing, but here we are 14 years later.

“Sinclair was really kind – he donated his old chair to me when I was at Wolverhampton Rhinos so that was a big moment for me.

“It was a big moment of conversion – for me that was the first time I started seeing the wheelchair as something positive rather than a mobility aid, so that was a really big life change.

“The total range of disabilities in wheelchair basketball is the best thing about it – it’s incredibly diverse and is one of the few Paralympic sports where there’s a wide range of different disabilities.

“It’s so inspiring – when you play new teams you see a new disability and you meet someone new.”

Fox’s passion for his sport is infectious, playing in his maiden Under-23 World Championships in Turkey in 2013 as an 18-year-old at a series of raucous, partisan arenas.

But his long-term ambition of becoming a school PE teacher then temporarily prevailed, leading to him taking two years away from the sport to focus on his education.

He soon set about getting back on the court, however, winning the World Championships at Under-23 level in 2017 before gaining a call-up to the senior squad.

Despite undergoing major heart surgery in the build-up to this year's European Championships – which involved him missing the Worlds in 2018 – Fox went on to play an instrumental role in a memorable Great British triumph.

“I can’t really describe what it’s like representing Great Britain at a major event,” added Fox, who was helping to promote Sainsbury’s role as longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all.

“You see international sports players tearing up at the anthems and you think ‘does it really mean that much?’, but when you’re there in the moment and when that anthem comes on it really does.

“Those Championships were a really good experience for me, and I worked really closely with the more experienced players like Gaz (Choudhry), who was my mentor.

“I think we’re the only team in the world with that vibe – we’ve got the older guys with the experience who give you a cool head, then you’ve got the young, energetic guys who are fearless.”

With the countdown to Tokyo intensifying, the prospect of a place on the plane to Japan was almost too much for Fox to comprehend.

“It would mean everything, not only to my parents who’ve sat by my hospital bed and driven me all around the country, but also the doctors who kept me alive and to my friends and family who’ve supported me,” he said.

“There would definitely be some tears shed if it happened, but we’re a long way away from it.

"In the sporting world 12 months is a long time and a lot can happen.”

Sainsbury’s is the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers live well for less has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit