THIS time a year ago, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games would have been far from the thoughts of Swindon wheelchair basketball player Ben Fox.

The 23-year-old, from Westlea, was still early in his recovery from major heart surgery to alleviate a long-standing condition.

Twelve months on, Fox completes an amazing comeback to the sport when he represents Great Britain’s senior side for the first time at the Wheelchair Basketball European Championship, which get under way on Friday.

The top 12 teams on the continent will face of in Poland, with the four teams that reach the semi-finals qualifying for next summer’s Paralympics.

Should Great Britain achieve that, it would cap a remarkable return to the court for Fox.

“I had a pretty tough time last year after having to sit out from the sport because of surgery,” said Fox.

“I had my pulmonary valve completely replaced. It was quite major surgery and something I needed doing.

“I managed to get in and out of hospital with it all going OK and get on the road to recovery.

“The surgery was in July but was out from May until January, so it was quite a long time.

“It was a tough time but well worth doing. I have come back fitter and stronger than I ever was before.

“I remember going into the selection meeting for the Euros thinking it is probably a bit too soon for me and that I would need one more year to really make a statement for the team.

“Thankfully, the coaches have given me an opportunity.

“The staff at the English Institute of Sport and at British Wheelchair Basketball have helped me come back better than ever

“Without their support, I don’t think I would be anywhere near the team.”

Fox has claimed junior world championship glory in the past but his selection for the Euros marks his maiden call up to the national senior squad.

His transition into the set-up has been a smooth one and Fox is now hungry for GB to get their campaign under way when they face Italy in the first of five pool games on Saturday.

“It is getting close and the excitement is kicking in,” said Fox.

“It was a great feeling to be picked. It is my first time with the seniors and they have welcomed me in with open arms. I am really proud and I can’t wait to get going now.

“It is a big tournament for us and it is going to be tough. The competition looks really strong this year.

“There is a lot more resting on it than just the European title. Only four teams qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics, so we need to put in some really good performances.

“We have got to get out of our group and then win our quarter-final to give us a chance of going for gold in Tokyo.

“The first objective is to secure the Tokyo spot. We will give it everything we have got.

“Once we have done that, we will look to push on and claim the gold medal as well.”