Gold medal star set to coach at Paralympics

A FORMER gold medallist from Portishead has been chosen to be an assistant coach at the Paralympics in London next year.

Jennifer Howitt Browning, aged 29, won gold for the US with her wheelchair basketball team at the Paralympics in Athens in 2004.

After retiring from the sport and moving to Somerset, she was invited to attend a training session with the women’s Paralympic team and give some advice.

She said: “I said what I thought and three months later I was asked to be coach. I’ve been going to tournaments throughout the year with the team and we’ve entered the women’s team in the men’s league to get them ready for the Paralympics.”

Jenny, whose first love was football, started playing wheelchair basketball after she broke her back and became paralysed at a summer camp in California when she was nine.

She said: “My dad heard about a wheelchair basketball club and he dragged me along.

“I loved football and said if I couldn’t do it I didn’t want to do anything else, but I went along and from the moment I held the basketball I was hooked.

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“For a long time I wanted people to see me for who I was and I tried to put aside that I was in a wheelchair. It was the right attitude, but I had also not accepted and wasn’t happy with who I was.

“Wheelchair basketball made me proud to say that I have a disability and I don’t let it stop me from doing the things I want to achieve.

“It’s made me more independent as I had to travel a lot and I love my life now, I don’t wish for a different one.”

Due to her success on the court, Jennifer won a scholarship to study at Oxford, through which she met her now husband.

The pair have now set up the first junior basketball team in the South West and Jennifer also works for Motivation in Backwell which helps to raise awareness and improve the lives of people with disabilities.

n Pictured: Jennifer with the medal she won in Athens.