When Blackfriars student Samuel Villios turned down an opportunity to represent South Australia in athletics at the Special Olympics, he had very good reason.
Samuel, 16, was also selected in the state basketball side, ultimately opting to represent Team SA in the sport he adores.
The Year 11 student secured the dual selection honour after winning gold in the 50m sprint and silver medals in the long jump, javelin and 100m, as well as a bronze in basketball, at the trial events.
And while the lure of athletics was tempting – Samuel will soon begin training in a dedicated Paralympic program in the hope of one day making the Games – basketball’s pull was just too strong.
He will now compete in the Special Olympics Australia National Games in Tasmania in October. The Games, which are held every four years, are pinnacle of competition for Special Olympics Australia.
Samuel’s mum, Tina Villios, said her son – who has left-side hemiplegia, suffers from seizures and has a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt to drain fluid from his brain – has had a passion for basketball “since he started talking”.
As a six-year-old, Samuel would play for fun on local courts, before moving into more formal training as he got older. He has also played basketball for Blackfriars.
But the road to selection on his first state team was not without a few bumps.
In the past few years, Samuel has had two knee surgeries, removing growth plates, and, more recently, surgery on his left hand to improve its functionality.
“He’s really spent a lot of time in hospital and in therapy since he was one,” Mrs Villios said. “He’s had a really trying couple of years … very difficult.”
But she said her son was not one to complain.
Dad George Villios was filled with pride.
“Considering what his initial prognosis was, his ability to take part in mainstream schooling and his sporting achievements, along with his continual growth in his social life, has been simply stunning,” Mr Villios said.
Samuel, who is eyeing a career as a health assistant for children with disabilities, is now training with the state basketball team for two hours every week ahead of the Special Olympics.
South Australia will take more than 100 athletes to the National Games, from 17-21 October, in Launceston.