Ella Sabljak took up wheelchair basketball in 2008 and by 2011 represented Australia at the Women’s U25 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship in Canada, where the team won the silver medal. At the 2015 U25 Championship in China, Sabljak was national captain and guided the team to another silver medal.
Between those tournaments, the 1.0 point guard began to establish herself at senior level, making her debut for the Gliders at the Osaka Cup in Japan in 2013. In subsequent years, Sabljak’s skills and positive influence within the team environment earned her regular selection.
The Gliders’ failure to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was a bitter blow. But it only stoked the fire within Sabljak and her teammates, who have secured their place for the Tokyo Games and will be chasing Australia’s first gold medal in women’s wheelchair basketball after having previously won silver three times and bronze once.
The school teacher from Queensland is now a key player in the Gliders’ set-up as a member of the team’s Leadership Group and a non-regular captain. She is also a busy advocate for her sport, having been appointed by the Asia Oceania Zone to be their representative on the IWBF’s Athlete Steering Committee, whose task has been to establish an Athlete’s Commission.
Sabljak said she’d always looked up to Glider Clare Nott and The Netherlands’ Jitske Visser for the “intelligent and skilful” way they’ve played and has tried to emulate their style. However, her biggest influence might be Matt McShane, who plays for the men’s national wheelchair basketball team, the Rollers – and to whom Sabljak is engaged to be married in 2022.