Being blind in one eye cannot stop sharp shooter, who has helped drive her unfancied team to women’s 3x3 semifinals.
Suzi-Rose Deegan has heard time and time again that her unique shooting style is not proper technique, but the Australian 3x3 basketballer has the perfect response to the naysayers - especially those who are not aware she is blind in her left eye. “I’ve got a different shot technique, yeah, but it still goes in, it still works for me. It’s got me to where I am today,” said Deegan, 17, who helped her team advance to the semifinals in the women’s tournament with a 16-6 win over Ukraine on Tuesday.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Whoa, how did you get to this level being blind in one eye?’ But I’ve grown up with it my whole entire life, so for me it’s just a usual day.”
Her shot technique involves releasing the ball from her left side with her right hand so that she can still see the basket with her right eye.
Deegan was born with a “lazy eye”, and her vision continued to decrease due to a degenerative disorder that eventually took the sight in her left eye by the age of 13. “It was kind of a blessing for me to have that diagnosis, because then I could go to my coaches and say, ‘I can’t change it, this is the best shot for me, it’s going in.’
“There might be a lot of critics about it, but I just surround myself with people like my teammates) who just get around me every time and lift me up.”
Teammate Ruby Porter, 17, said of Deegan’s technique: “It obviously pays off. We’re so proud of her to have come this far - and with all of us - and it’s just a great feeling.”
Rounding out the Australian team are Sara-Rose Smith and Alexandra Fowler, who started playing together only two weeks before the start of the YOG. All are traditional 5x5 players, chosen by their Olympic committee based on their skill set. “It’s such a credit to us - having such minimal preparation, and even making it to the quarters,” said Smith, 17. “It’s just incredible.”
Porter said: “It definitely comes from playing a lot of basketball back in Australia and having the experience. We know what to do and at the right times.”
Australia are considered underdogs in the tournament, but Deegan says their physicality gives them an edge. “It wasn’t skill that has gotten us through - it’s the teamwork and the hustle,” she said. “We’re Australian and we’re kind of used to that kind of physicality out there. If we come out tomorrow firing just as hard as we did today and if we fight for this, we’ll get it.”
Australia face France in the semifinals on Wednesday, while USA play China, who beat Argentina in overtime, 19-17.
In men's quarterfinals, Slovenia edged Russia 15-14 to earn a semifinal against Belgium, while Argentina, led by Juan Esteban de la Fuente, trounced Georgia 21-12 and face Ukraine next.