Together with his team he has trained hard to start a wheelchair basketball tournament on Friday

Despite having a physical disability because of polio – or polio – Rigoberto López does not allow this to become an obstacle.

The 39-year-old Honduran works for a non-profit organization in Whittier and in his spare time is dedicated to sports.

So far, he has completed 11 wheelchair marathons and for five years he has been part of LA Hotwheels, a basketball team for people who also use this device to mobilize.

"I will continue to do so until I no longer have the strength," the Koreatown resident said enthusiastically. "For me this is like rehabilitation because in Central America we don't have opportunities for sports programs."

Rigoberto said he was detected polio at 8 months old.

For several years he was forced to crawl to move from one place to another and when he turned 9 his parents had the opportunity to bring him to the United States for treatment and remained in the care of an aunt.

Rigoberto López has completed 11 marathons. (Supplied)

"I think it was a lot of work for my aunt because when I turned 12 I returned to Honduras and lost communication with her," he recalled.

However, having been in the United States allowed him to learn to walk with half-hand crutches (cane type), an easier way to move in the difficult streets of his native Honduras.

However, the few opportunities forced him to emigrate back to Los Angeles 10 years ago. He came with the hope of reuniting with his aunt but it was impossible. He never found her.

He says this forced him to be helpless in the streets of Huntington Park, where he slept outdoors for a few days, until he arrived at a church where the reverend gave him the help he needed.

"He sent me to a shelter and already having a place to sleep, I started to learn English," Rigoberto said.

Sport becomes your ally

Over time, the Honduran patented the Unification of Disabled Latin Americans (UDLA) where he eventually discovered that sport was a way of staying active.

Being busy prevented him from falling into depression since he was in an unknown place and without relatives.

“When I am exercising I feel very well physically,” said Rigoberto, who five years ago joined the LA Hotwheels basketball group.

This team of about 13 members is dedicated to offering physical and competitive activity for people in wheelchairs.

Co-founder and coach Max Amenero, who also uses a chair to move, said that there are players in the team who have to use the wheelchair for different reasons.

These include birth illnesses, vehicle accidents or even gunshot wounds.

However, the support offered is the same for everyone and consists of a rigorous training two or three days a week to compete with other teams in the nation.

In addition, when the occasions allow it, they gather for celebrations, to go on a picnic or just go for a drink.

"This helps them keep their minds busy and have fun," Amenero said.

"It is easier to face their situation when they have to entertain themselves."

Max Amenero (center) together with the AltaMed team prepare for the annual tournament. (Supplied)

Basketball Tournament

One of the achievements that LA Hotwheels has achieved is to participate in the tournaments of the National Association of Basketball Wheelchairs (NWBA).

Today Friday will begin the third annual tournament in the city of Cudahy where seven teams will meet, not only to win first place but to demonstrate that teamwork can be done with or without disabilities.

The teams will arrive from Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and northern California to participate in the three-day event that takes place in collaboration with AltaMed.

This is also an opportunity for those in wheelchairs to see the opportunities they are offered regardless of their condition.

Rigoboerto is grateful to have known this team that ensures it keeps you motivated.

“I live alone but the people who know me here have become like my family and they help me whenever I need,” he said and also thanked his work leaders for giving him the opportunity to change his schedules when he should train.

The Honduran said there is no disability that can stop any person as long as he has the desire to get ahead.

"I believe that everything is possible," said the athlete.

The NWBA basketball tournament starts this Friday, November 15 from 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. in the Clara park in the city of Cudahy located at 4835 Clara St, Cudahy 90201. Admission is free.

For more information call (323) 528-3945 or visit


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