Wheelchair basketball player Joseph Bestwick was born in England and won a Paralympic medal for Great Britain. At the Games in Tokyo, he will face Germany and England on Friday.
TOKYO – He now hears “Die Ärzte,” loves schnitzel and thinks “the traditional German family breakfast on Sundays is absolutely fantastic.” There is a lot of German about Joseph “Joe” Bestwick.
The native Englishman also has a favorite German phrase: “There is no such thing as bad weather. There is just the wrong clothes.” Because he used to be completely English. “And in any weather with a T-shirt and shorts. Today I’m wearing outdoor jackets.”
With Great Britain, Bestwick won the bronze medal at the 2008 Paralympics. Now he will meet England of all places in his first tournament as a German wheelchair basketball player on Friday morning. However, according to his own statement, he is not in an emotional predicament. He says: “I have no connection to the association as an idea, and I was with very few people who are today in the team. Great Britain means family, school friends, and my children to me. On Friday I was only playing against a couple of friends. But I also do it against Australia or the US. Wheelchair basketball is a small world.”
Conversely, he did not apply for dual citizenship with the ulterior motive of his candidacy for Germany. “I made the decision after Brexit,” he says. “Working in Germany was more complicated after that. But above all it was a family decision. So that my children had other options later.” Would he really have gotten a German passport without Brexit? Bestwick thinks about it. “It certainly could have become an issue at some point, but maybe not soon,” says the 36-year-old.
As a nice side effect, he’s now playing his second Paralympics. In a different shirt. It comes full circle in a strange way. He says, “At the time I was walking around with wide eyes, I was a bit confused. In the meantime I’m getting calmer, more professional.” However, the photos of the 23-year-old himself appear to him from another time. “When I see pictures from Beijing, I ask myself: What kind of chair were you sitting in at the time?”
At that time he still had his legs. Only the right person was amputated in England in 2010. “I didn’t run for the World Cup and I had the time,” he says. But it was necessary. “I had clubfoot and more and more back problems. I had to choose between amputation and daily use of a wheelchair. I have never regretted it.”
Professional in Cologne
During the 2008 Paralympic Games he played in Germany for the Köln99ers team. His Australian coach put him there in 2007 because he had to be a pro to move forward. Shortly before returning home two years later, he met his current wife, a woman from Cologne. I accompanied him to England. “When I had just settled after three years, I said: ‘I’m sorry, I have an offer from Germany, from RSV Lahn-Dill. They are the biggest team in Germany, I have to accept that.'”
The Wetzlar team was the World Cup winner at the time. After nine titles including the Champions Cup, Bestwick moved to Hannover United in 2017 and returned to Cologne in the summer. “Now I’m more German than English,” he says. English is still its appearance. “There aren’t many men with long hair, tattoos, and beards in Germany,” he says. But he had to get used to “formulating things in German in a friendlier way”.
National team coach Nikolai Zeltinger said that Bestwick added “a lot of power in the game”: “He has a strong throw after kick. I’m sure he will show against Great Britain.”
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