ANNEKA Bodt has learnt to live with one leg that is far shorter than the other but what she will never accept is being told “you can’t”.
Born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, Anneka endured a barrage of bullying in early primary school.
In response, the then seven-year-old created a slideshow cataloguing all of the things she was perfectly capable of doing, including surfing, riding a bike, climbing trees and swimming.
“I was living my life with something that none of them had to deal with, facing challenges that none of them had to face and they were the ones bullying me?” she said.
“Look how sad that is.”
Since then, the Melville resident has resolved to confront head on the negative perceptions that often hound people living with a disability.
The 15-year-old is a cadet, a school council leader and plays four instruments – piano, clarinet, guitar and bass – but her first love is wheelchair basketball.
“It really sucks being a sporty kid and sucking at able-bodied sport,” Anneka said.
“In primary school I tried every single sport they had – netball, soccer, hockey – but they all ended up with me being a danger to myself or others.
“Then about three years ago I found out about Wheelchair Sports Association WA through one of mum’s friends and went along to a junior camp.
“It was such an amazing environment, really the first time I’d been around a large group of people that all had disabilities and where no one was questioning your capabilities.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Anneka is captain of Western Australia’s junior wheelchair basketball team the Black Ducks and in August, helped the senior women’s side to gold in the national championships.
She is also a stand-in coach for the Melville Wheelchair Basketball Program, organised a wheelchair basketball day at Melville Senior High School and fundraises diligently to support the sport.
Her combined efforts have earned her a finalist’s berth in the Commissioner for Children and Young People Participate Award at the WA Youth Awards.
Characteristic of the teenager’s mindset, Anneka is more focused on looking forward than celebrating her achievements.
“Melville Senior High School has just given me permission to start a group called Sexualities and Gender Alliance (SAGA) which is basically a safe space for LGBT kids to come together,” she said.
“I’m aiming to get that up and running next year.”
Long term, it is difficult to doubt that Anneka will achieve her goal of playing for the Gliders at a Paralympic Games; she is already well on her way after being accepted into the Australian youth development squad.
“Once I become a Paralympian – it’s once, not if – I want to become a teacher but I’d also love to do more work for the disabled community,” she said. “The one thing I hate the most is parents who say to their kids ‘you’re disabled, you can’t do that’.”
“Most of my outlook is probably owed to my parents who always encouraged me to jump and see what happens.”
The WA Youth Award winners will be announced on Friday.