By David Lias
Dylan Fischbach has always managed to come out on top, despite the adversity life has thrown in his direction.
He and other young men much like him have found that athletic competition mixed with a bit of courage is a great way to deal with some of the difficulties they’ve had to face.
They have also, collectively, achieved the good sense to know when to say “no,” especially when a possible future adversary may be overseas terrorism.
Dylan lost a leg, but fortunately, not his life, to cancer when he was an infant. He spent his youth mastering his skills at wheelchair basketball, competing for years as a member of the Nebraska Red Dawgs basketball team.
Dylan, the son of Kelly and Bruce Fischbach of Vermillion, is now an 18-year-old man who graduated from Vermillion High School last spring. A few weeks after receiving his high school diploma, he was selected as a member of the prestigious 2013 USA Men’s Under-23 Wheelchair Basketball Team.
The team was scheduled to participate in the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) U23 World Championships, set for early September in Adana, Turkey.
Along with the hard work, courage, and determination it takes to win a spot on this esteemed team comes a bit of wisdom. There are things going on in Turkey and nearby nations that make a trip to the world championships too dangerous.
The USA men’s wheelchair basketball team has politely declined its invitation to travel to Adana in approximately a month.
“We actually knew (the decision) about three weeks ago,” said Bruce Fischbach, in a phone conversation Tuesday with the Vermillion Plain Talk. “It was one of those things where the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation had been talking with the U.S. State Department, and so we had some premonitions about what was going to happen.
“So, three weeks ago, the decision had already been made,” he said. “And now, with all of the things that are going on, it looks like that was a tremendous decision to make.”
Shortly following the team’s decision to not travel to Turkey came news last weekend of heightened terrorism worries throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. The terrorist threat forced the closure of 19 U.S. embassies, and was the most serious in the last several years, and were eerily reminiscent of the leadup to 9/11, top lawmakers said last Sunday.
Another sign of unrest impossible to ignore was a suicide bombing that took place at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey last February. In April, Turkish police said Thursday that they had found evidence of a plot linked to Al Qaeda to bomb the United States Embassy in Ankara, a synagogue in Istanbul and other targets, from a raid on two houses in February, according to news reports.
Turkey shares much of its southern border with Syria. Other neighboring nations include Iraq and Iran.
“Adana is fairly close the Syrian border,” Bruce said, “where there’s a lot of unrest in Syria, and the United States recently made a decision to help arm the Syrian rebels, adding to the political unrest in the region. When you start doing all of that stuff, it’s a good idea not to go in there with U.S.A. written in large letters on your chest.”
The USA Men’s Under-23 Wheelchair Basketball Team has opted to stay stateside and compete later this month in tournament hosted in Texas.
The Texas tourney will feature some of the top wheelchair basketball athletes in the nation, including Dylan and other members of Team USA.
“Team USA will be participating in a tournament Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 in Dallas, TX. The tournament will be played at the University of Texas-Arlington, and it will be against American teams, but we’re trying to bring in top-flight people for them to play against,” Bruce said. “We’re going to bring in the champion Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks – they won last year’s NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) championship, and we’re going to bring in the college runner-up team, the University of Texas-Arlington, along with the U23 Team USA.
“All of this is geared towards making sure that USA has a team of people who are well prepared for 2016 and 2020 in the Paralympic years,” he said. “This team has been identified, we need them to play and we need them to play together. We’re making every effort to allow that – they don’t get to go to Turkey, but they are going to get together and play a lot of games.”
The young athletes naturally were disappointed that they won’t be competing overseas, but they understand why the trip couldn’t be made.
“While we’re obviously very disappointed about losing the opportunity to go to Turkey, we still realize that one, it was a very good decision not to go, and two, we’re still going to get everybody together and have them play,” Bruce said.