Nearly 21 years ago, a bullet fired from a gun in Somalia cracked through the air and ricocheted into Abdi Dini’s back.
It pierced his spinal cord between his shoulder blades, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. For life.
Wrong place at the wrong time, the now 31-year-old says.
Accepting what happened took great mental toughness, something Dini says was a challenge and was very hard for him to accept at first, but he has since come a long way.
More than two decades later, Dini won gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London in wheelchair basketball as a member of the Canadian national team.
He said his greatest challenge at the Games was being mentally prepared for each match but said it was something he was already used to due to his experiences .
“It was probably the deepest competition ever … because any given day, any given game there could be an upset,” he said. “We peaked at the right time as a team. The coaching staff did a great job . . . on preparing us for every game we played and actually putting in all the hard work we did.”
The Paralympics is one of the world’s major international events for athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities. It is now a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1948 when it only involved World War II veterans. However the Games have become highly respected throughout the world.
Similarly, Dini’s beginnings were just as humble but blossomed just the same.
The now Scarborough resident moved to Canada at the age of 12. While attending high school, a teacher suggested he get involved in wheelchair basketball. Taking the advice, Dini casually played the sport, but eventually he could not deny his talent which led him to be part of several junior and national championship teams.
But it was in 2008 that he reached the pinnacle of the sport. He made the Canadian national team and helped them win silver at the Paralympic Games in Beijing. He remembers his involvement in his first Paralympic Games and the camaraderie he shared with the team.
“It was awesome,” he said. “[With] most of my teammates then, it was their third or fourth Paralympics and it was good having them on the team and they shared their best experiences.”
The chance to win a major sporting event not only allows for a sense of pride, but also a sense of belonging for Dini. Winning gold has left him lasting and treasured memories.
“We were blessed to have a good basketball program in Canada and we are considered one of the top programs in the world,” he said.
“To actually medal again was awesome, and for it to be a gold medal is an unbelievable feeling and it’s something you’ll always remember.”