How Adaptive Athlete Tyler Saunders is Breaking Barriers and Defying Expectations
From semi-pro basketball player to fitness micro-influencer and now a part of the official Gymshark coaching team, Tyler Saunders’ profile is on the up and up. He’s also a regular on the UK fitness competition scene. Born with his right leg missing from the hip, his path to elite sporting achievement hasn’t been without obstacles. But if there’s one thing Saunders lives for, it’s a challenge. He talks to MH about fighting for inclusivity and breaking free of your comfort zone.
Men’s Health: Alongside your job as a personal trainer, you’re also a wheelchair basketball athlete. Was sport a big part of your life growing up?
Tyler Saunders: I enjoyed taking part in physical activity at school, but I couldn’t always keep up with sports. With football being the big sport in the England… due to my limited functionality I couldn’t really take part as much as I wanted to, and I ended up in goal a lot of the time, which was soul-destroying as a kid.
Then I discovered basketball, which I took to because a lot of it’s played with your hands. It was just playground basketball, having fun, not taking it too seriously. I was included in the school team, but again, I didn’t get many minutes, as I wasn’t able to keep up with the flow of the game. So that didn’t do much for my confidence.
I wasn’t really encouraged to do sport by my parents, through no fault of theirs. So, it wasn’t a big part of my life growing up. A lot of people might think I’ve always been into sport and fitness, but that’s not the case.
I also wore a prosthetic leg until I was about 23. [Saunders was born with his right leg missing from the hip.] I had a partner at the time who asked me, ‘Why do you wear the leg if it causes you so much discomfort?’ I’d always worn it to fit in and look like everyone else. After that, I took to using crutches because it was more comfortable, and I got over the idea that everyone was going to look at me. Eventually, it became my identity: I was the one-legged guy who got around very easily.
MH: How did things change when you discovered wheelchair basketball?
TS: That was my…