Lady Movin’ Mavs players balance competing for Paralympics, preparing for school

You won’t catch Darlene Hunter, Elodie Tessier or Annabelle Lindsay around campus anytime soon.

Because for the first few weeks of classes, instead of strapping on backpacks, these three Lady Movin’ Mavs will be strapping themselves into their ball chairs.

The players are preparing and fighting for their final chance to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

So it won’t be school clothes that they’ll throw on in the morning but jerseys with their respective countries plastered across the chest: USA. Canada. Australia.

Tessier is an incoming freshman and represents Canada. She and Hunter, a graduate student representing the U.S., will be spending their time in Lima, Peru, for the 2019 Parapan American Games through the beginning of September.

The top two teams in the tournament will advance to the Paralympics, so the only options they have are to win or try again in four years. The U.S. is the favorite, having claimed gold in every tournament since 2007.

“We’re going in defending our gold,” Hunter said. “Canada is coming after us because they want to win the gold.”

Hunter described the games as a ‘mini Paralympics’ for the Americas. Throughout the summer, Tessier and Hunter trained and traveled across the world with their national teams for this one moment.

Win or lose, when Hunter makes it back to the United States, she can easily slip back into her usual school routine. Tessier, however, is in uncharted territory.

“When [I return] to Texas, it’ll be just so different because I don’t know a lot of people,” Tessier said. “The only person I really know is Darlene.”

UTA’s campus is unfamiliar to her. She doesn’t know how Canvas works, how to navigate through MyMav or access her digital textbooks. But with the help of Hunter, and maybe a few UTA alumni, she’ll learn all of that in Peru.

“It’s funny because I’m bringing all of her textbooks on the plane,” Hunter said. “I’ll be sitting down in Lima with her and her textbooks and getting her all set up for the first week of school.”

While those two are getting settled in, Lindsay will be on the other side of the world, competing in tournaments and preparing for the 2019 Asia Oceania Championships in Thailand.

Lindsay will return to campus around the same time as Hunter and Tessier, but will have to depart again when the championships commence in late November — around the same time final exams take place.

Originally scheduled to run through the beginning of November, the start of the games was pushed back a few weeks so the Thai government could meet the financial requirements needed to host the tournament.

Traveling to and from Australia has taken a toll on the Lady Movin’ Mavs junior. A flight from Dallas to her hometown of Canberra is over 20 hours. Lindsay travels a lot, sleeps very little and still has to figure out how she’s going to make it through finals week. Whether she will take her exams before, during or after the tournament remains a mystery.

“I just have to basically hope that they’re going to be understanding,” Lindsay said. “It’s the luck of the draw for me.”

Balancing school, the Lady Movin’ Mavs and their national teams hasn’t been so glamorous. Lindsay is one example.

The fatigue from competing and traveling all summer resulted in her being benched with an injury for over a month.

With the Paralympics just around the corner, each of these athletes will have to get accustomed to heavy training schedules and lots of homework.

“As much as I love basketball — it’s awesome, I get to play it year-round — it definitely takes a toll on your body,” Lindsay said. “And I kind of need to manage my loads a little bit better leading into the Paralympics to make sure we don’t have this happen again.”

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