Meet Arizona’s Paralympic Hopefuls
Story by Scott Daravanis
Photo by Estefania Cavazos
Although he’s only 12 years old, Gabe Scanlan of Gilbert has his eyes firmly planted on the prize—the Paralympics.
“I have a personal goal of shooting for 2024 or 2028,” he said.
Gabe could qualify for the Paralympics in a multitude of sports. He plays wheelchair basketball, runs the 100, 200, and 800-meter dashes and throws shot put, javelin and discus.
“He’s pretty stubborn,” Gabe’s father, Ben, said. “Of my four children, he’s the one who’s going to do it no matter what.”
His favorite sport, wheelchair basketball, he’s played since he was 5 years old.
“He’s grown up quite a bit in the years that I’ve coached him,” Robert Reed said. “In the division he is supposed to play in, he dominates and when he plays for the varsity [14 and 15 year olds], he keeps up with them just as much.”
“He is a great young man from a really great family. He’s a pleasure to have on the team,” Tim Binning said. “He does what I ask him to do and he incorporates different things on his technique that we work on. I enjoy Gabe quite a bit.”
Gabe was born with Spina Bifida, a condition where the bones of the vertebrae do not completely enclose the spinal cord before birth.
Gabe’s disability did not prevent his parents, athletes themselves, from getting Gabe involved in sports.
“I’ve seen the value [in sports],” Ben said. “We got Gabe involved with Arizona Disabled Sports. Our eyes were opened to the opportunities he has in sports and he can benefit with all of the things sports comes with: team unity and learning to get along with people; learning to win and lose and building his character.”
Gabe prefers wheelchair basketball because the action is fairly constant, his dad notes. Except for rest periods, timeouts and halftime, Gabe is wheeling himself up and down the court on offense or defense. Gabe plays point guard or shooting guard.
Gabe set new Adaptive Track & Field USA (ATFUSA) records at the Angel City Games at UCLA in seated javelin and seated shot put. He finished third in seated discus. Gabe also took firsts in the 100-meter boy’s wheelchair dash, the boy’s 200-meter dash the 800-meter boy’s seat run.
Gabe is following the precedent set by Glendale native and 2008 and 2016 Paralympian, Erik Hightower.
“I could see he’s a natural talent who will go a long way in whatever sport he does,” Hightower said from the Paralympic Training Center in San Diego. “I’ve done (the Paralympics) twice. He can definitely do it.”
Outside of sports, the Pioneer Elementary pupil likes science and social studies, and plays the trumpet in band class. He says someday he’d like to give sled hockey a try. Gabe doesn’t have specific career goals, yet, other than being involved in wheelchair sports.
Gabe is only a quarter of Scanlan athletic family. His older sister Kamee, 13, has participated in competitive dance and is now cheerleading; his brother Preston, 8, plays baseball and flag football; and his sister Paislee, 6, practices gymnastics.
Scott W.L. Daravanis is a graduate of Indiana University and has worked in television, radio and newspapers. Scott has been a reporter/photographer, Managing Editor, Associate Editor and City Editor for weekly, twice-weekly and daily newspapers. He plays sled hockey and enjoys photography. Scott and his wife, Amy, reside in Prescott Valley. He has one son, two step-daughters and four step-grandchildren.