Athlete of the Year Candidate: Joel Fini
Coming up this fall, the director of Adaptive Sports Iowa will choose the ASI Athlete of the Year. Joel Fini, who participates in adult wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, and cycling through ASI, stood out as an outstanding athlete this year and is in the running for the award. Joel is a T7 paraplegic who was injured back in August of 1993. He works at Mediacom, and in his free time, he loves to kayak, fish, play pool (on his own and in tournaments), and ski.
Joel became involved in Adaptive Sports Iowa when someone approached him at his daughter’s basketball game and introduced him to the wheelchair sport. That was about 10 years ago, and Joel has been actively involved ever since. For him, adaptive sports are a way to stay active and to meet new people. “I firmly believe that activity is everything,” Joel says. He wants to stay active to maintain his health, and through the hours of practice and training together, the members of ASI really become a community. They celebrate each others’ victories and are there through the difficulties of life. By maintaining their physical activity, the ASI participants keep their social lives busy, as well.
In addition to the ASI family, Joel gets to participate with his daughter. She has come to almost every wheelchair basketball and tennis practice. While she is not an everyday wheelchair user herself, Callison is adept at adaptive sports and can easily maneuver a sports chair. Joel’s favorite memories as he looks back on his years of participation are all the times he has gotten to participate in RAGBRAI as a family. “I’ve ridden with my daughter for seven years,” he says, “you can’t put a price on that.”
One of Joel’s favorite adaptive sports is wheelchair tennis. He likes that a big team isn’t needed to play, and he can really push himself to work hard and make improvements. Adaptive Sports Iowa is only in its second season of wheelchair tennis, but Joel is present at almost every practice. He has the goal to participate in a tennis tournament and win the entire thing! He loves competition and having something to work towards, so this goal is in no way out of reach for Joel to achieve.
As a very independent individual, Joel wants to remind the nondisabled population to not always assume that someone needs or wants help. Most people with physical impairments are very independent, and asking to help can seem condescending at times. When asked about the biggest challenge in adaptive sports, he stated that for team sports, it’s hard to recruit enough participants. During the wheelchair basketball season, there are usually only enough players for one 3 on 3 game, which limits the game in some aspects. That’s why he enjoys tennis so much. He wants to encourage anyone with a disability to not be afraid to try. “If you want to do something, give it a shot. You might fail, but at least you tried. That’s the important thing.”
Thank you, Joel, for all the hard work and time you’ve put into Adaptive Sports Iowa!
Way to go Joel! You are an inspiration to all of us. One way or another I feel that you have had a positive impact on every person you have met. It reminds me of someone once describing grandpa Fini. As a kid I heard someone say he was a great man and would help most anyone he could. I’m proud to be the guy who says that about you.