Alexandre Taniguchi Wins the Coloplast Unique Potentials Competition
When the Brazilian wheelchair rugby team embarked on a 700-kilometer road trip to their first tournament, they did so without some very important cargo: their every-day wheelchairs. The wheelchairs didn’t fit in their minivan, so they left them behind. And while their opponents strapped into custom-made wheelchair rugby chairs, the Brazilian team made do with borrowed wheelchair basketball chairs. But Team Brazil had one very important asset: their young leader, 24-year-old Alexandre Taniguchi.
Now, Taniguchi has been named the winner of the Coloplast Unique Potentials competition, which rewards an up-and-coming wheelchair rugby player with a grant of $500 to help him or her make it on the world stage. It’s hard to find an athlete with bigger dreams than Alexandre Taniguchi.
Wheelchair rugby is just becoming established in Brazil, but Taniguchi has big plans for the fledgling team. Despite his youth, he’s a leader both on and off the court. In addition to practicing three hours a day, Taniguchi also cross-trains with swimming and weight training. To expand his rugby knowledge, he watches games by more established teams online and surfs the internet for the latest wheelchair rugby news. Somehow, he also finds time to be a student in Robotics Engineering.
He’s come a long way since he was recruited from swimming in 2008.
“At the beginning, Alex trained in a basketball wheelchair and didn’t have enough strength to get through an entire practice, nor did he strap in or use any additional materials,” said IWRF Americas Development Commissioner Matias Costa, who nominated him. “With time, Alex has become one of the most hard-working athletes in Brazil both on and off the court.”
Athletes from all over the world were nominated for the Coloplast Unique Potentials competition, which was held in conjunction with the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. The contest was judged by Duncan Campbell, who was one of the founders of the sport, Brad Mikkelsen, who brought the sport to the USA, and Darin Hurnanen, a representative from Coloplast. Though there were many worthy nominees, Taniguchi’s huge impact on the sport across the country made him the winner.
“Most local players, coaches and people involved with the sport look up to him,” says Costa. “He shares his small but always-increasing experience with anyone around who’s willing to learn.”
In the future, Taniguchi dreams of representing his country at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. To make this happen, he first plans to acquire his own rugby wheelchair, since the one he’s currently using belongs to the Brazilian Association. He would also like to gain more international experience by playing a season or two in the United States or Canada.
Coloplast congratulates Alexandra Taniguchi for exhibiting the Unique Potential to bring elite wheelchair rugby to Brazil.