As a 10-year-old, Michael Auprince was faced with one of the toughest questions life can throw at you – do you want to keep your leg?
Born without muscles in his left leg and having had years of wearing uncomfortable supports and restricted movement, Michael decided he could get more out of life with one leg.
And with that, Michael had his lower left leg amputated and was fitted with a prosthetic leg. Fast forward over a decade and the 21- year old is now a Paralympic gold medallist in swimming, is studying to become an English teacher and is hoping to represent Australia at the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in July. For him, sport not only changed his life, but in many ways, has defined it.
You won a gold and bronze medal with the men’s relay teams at London 2012 – why did you make the move from swimming to wheelchair basketball?
I had played basketball for almost as long as I was swimming. I gave it up for a year to concentrate fully on London. The goal was to make the Under 23 World Championships in Turkey last year, which I did and then realised that I wanted to go further with basketball so I made the switch full time.
Have you found any cross over between swimming and wheelchair basketball?
Repetition, repetition, repetition! Skills such as shooting or using the correct stroke in the pool must become habit. I’m also trying to show basketball the same commitment that had to be put into swimming to achieve what you want.
If you weren’t swimming or playing basketball, what would you be doing?
I would probably concentrate more on my degree. I have always wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten. I originally wanted to be a PE teacher but fell in love with English. My parents have always stressed education to me, and I want to finish it.
Your time management skills must be amazing! How do you juggle it all?
I’m at uni twice a week and I also work part time at my local RSL club. They give me time for my sport and are fully supportive of me. My family are a huge driving force in my life and share my love for sport with me. But ultimately it’s hard to be an athlete and have a social life. There have to be sacrifices but in the end, those sacrifices are totally worth it.
Has sport taken you to any exciting places apart from the London Paralympics?
I loved Cardiff where we had the staging camp before London. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so seeing all the places where it was filmed, as well as the landmarks and the Doctor Who museum was amazing.
What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to upcoming athletes?
Really understand yourself and what you want. Sport isn’t just about being physically fit and strong, but more than anything, it’s about being mentally strong. You often have to say no to going to parties and eating whatever you want, but living healthy, feeling great and achieving your goal far outweighs those small sacrifices.
The men’s wheelchair basketball team, the Rollers, will be looking for back to back world titles and will compete at the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Incheon, Korea from 5-14 July.
Photos: Michael Auprince playing wheelchair basketball; Michael at the London 2012 Paralympic Games; Michael with his father Paul Auprince.