Despite losing his leg to cancer as a nine-year-old, and then a lung at 11 due to a recurrence of the illness, Tristan Knowles’ fierce drive and fighting spirit has seen him carve out a successful career in wheelchair basketball both in Australia and abroad.
Desperately searching for an Aussie Rules equivalent, Tristan’s dad contacted the Australian Institute of Sport to learn about the sorts of opportunities available to Tristan in Para-sport. On discovering wheelchair basketball, his ascension in the sport was meteoric.
Making his Paralympic debut in 2004, Tristan and the Rollers won four of their five preliminary matches to qualify for the quarter-finals. Defeating Germany 79-60 and Great Britain 64-52, they met Canada in the gold medal match to ultimately bag silver. At Beijing 2008 the Rollers managed to go one better, overcoming long-time adversary Canada 60-72 to win gold.
Central to the team’s success, Tristan helped the Rollers en route to their 2010 and 2014 IWBF World Wheelchair Basketball Championship victories and podium finish at the 2012 Games in London following an unbeaten run to the final.
Shockingly, at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Tristan’s Rollers were eliminated from gold medal contention in a 23-point loss to Great Britain in the quarter-finals.
The Spotswood local has considerable experience competing in European leagues, having played for clubs based in Spain, Italy and Turkey, but is currently signed to Melbourne’s Kilsyth Cobras.
Outside of training and competition, he enjoys going to the movies, travelling, and spending time with his partner and their English and French bulldogs, Hank and Carlos.
Tristan also runs the Tristan Knowles Kids Cancer Foundation, designed to raise money to support children with cancer by issuing self-development scholarships. He says that receiving his game chair at 16 was a life-changing moment and is proud to be able to offer the same opportunities to children today.