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An interview with Tara Llanes

News | July 2, 2021

Tara Llanes

You haven’t yet heard of Tara Llanes, consider yourself warned. This superstar Paralympic athlete is about to burn rubber at the Summer Olympics as part of Canada’s national wheelchair basketball team.

Born in 1976, Llanes (whose last name is pronounced Yaw-ness) started her sporting career as a Bicycle Motocross (BMX) racer. She then graduated to competing globally for 15 years as a professional mountain biker before a mountain bike crashed caused a spinal cord injury that changed her life in 2007.

As she made her way back to sport, Llanes tried playing wheelchair tennis before being introduced to wheelchair basketball in 2016. By 2018, she was already representing Canada at the 2018 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Hamburg, Germany.

More recently, Llanes also agreed to be an Ambassador for Triumph Mobility, as a user of our Panthera wheelchairs. We will be cheering her on to the Olympics and in the meantime wanted to introduce her in her own words. Here is our first Q&A with this fantastic athlete:

Have you always been athletic? Tell me about your trajectory through sports and how you first decided to start competing?

I grew up playing basketball, track & field, softball, gymnastics, BMX, and mountain biking. I just wanted to compete. It didn’t make sense to me to just play. It made all the sense in the world to work to be the best.

Tara Llanes Basketball

I grew up in California playing high basketball for Brea-Olinda High School. Playing for that school and for that coach taught me a lot about discipline and who I wanted to be. We ended up winning a National Championship and were rated as the number one team in the nation by USA Today. By that time, I had already been racing BMX at a national level and as soon as I graduated high school the natural progression from BMX was mountain biking.

I signed my first contract to race mountain bikes and within a couple years I signed a contract with Specialized bikes. I ended up racing for almost 15 years until I broke my back while racing in 2007.

After your injury, what made you decide to take up high-level competitive sports again? What made you choose the sports you did?

After playing within Canada and Internationally I was introduced to wheelchair basketball and realized quickly that I missed the team sport aspect. In 2017, I switched sports. I was feeling it was a bit of gamble to have time to learn the game and make a Paralympic team, but I also knew how to play basketball which gave me a leg up.

Tara Llanes

What did you choose the wheelchair you did? What were you looking for in a chair and how did the one you chose meet your needs?

The weight of it was incredible. Without the wheels it’s 4.6lbs! I wanted a chair that would save my shoulders especially with the number of transfers I make in and out of the car every day. I wanted to also be able to count on the durability. I’ve now had my Panthera X for seven years and it’s been a dream.

How do high-level athletes like you use their wheelchairs in a different way than the average user?

How do you take care of your chair?

What motivates you to play sports at a high level?

What does your average day and workout routine look like?

Tara Llanes

What are your future goals in your sport and how do you work ahead to them?

What advice and encouragement would you have for others in terms of getting into wheelchair sports?