Liesl’s life may have been a whole lot different if it wasn’t for a mountain bike accident in 1988. Due to this tragic scenario, she became an incomplete paraplegic putting her in a terrible position. Basketball came calling and she hasn’t looked back. Liesel has had a very successful career playing the sport.
Her ability was noticed during her rehabilitation when one of her physiotherapists noticed how skilled she was at shooting with a foam basketball and perspex backboard. Liesel gave the sport a go and soon was selected in the New South Wales state team. Later she was invited to try out for the Australian women’s national wheelchair basketball team and qualified in 1990. Liesl made her proud national debut at that year’s World Championships and followed it with her Paralympic debut at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Liesl played with her heart on her sleeve. This gave her worldwide recognition and she was named in the All-Star Five at the 1994 Gold Cup, where the Australian team won a bronze medal. Her expertise in the sport just kept on giving and she was rewarded by teaming up with the Australian team at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. In 1998, she was named Most Valuable Player at the Gold Cup.
Liesl competed with the national wheelchair basketball team in five Paralympics. That number is a massive achievement. Even more momentous is the fact that she won three medals. Her leadership qualities meant she was destined to have a management role within the team, and in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics she was given the honour of being the vice-captain of the team, where she won a silver medal. Her talent was put on show at the biggest sporting event in the world for her sport, and it didn’t take long for her to be approached by some professional men’s teams who enticed her into playing for them. Liesel played for 5 years including stints in Madrid, Sardinia, and Paris. She became the first woman in the world to play wheelchair basketball professionally.
From being the vice-captain to becoming the captain, she was asked to lead the wheelchair team that took to the 2004 Paralympics, where she won silver. Liesl kept her form going and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Liesel’s initiative and devotion to forming a women’s wheelchair competition came to fruition when she helped establish a league on the continent and competed in women’s teams in Italy and France.
Coordination is a must have in the game of basketball. It’s also useful in sailing which Liesl decided to try. In 2011 she retired from the national wheelchair basketball squad to focus on sailing with the hope of representing Australia at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.
Liesl was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Australia Day Honours “for significant service to sport as a gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and through the promotion and facilitation of sport for people with disabilities.”