Bio

Leanne is one of three children in the Del Toso family. Her childhood was a happy one, and was spent playing multiple sports; basketball in particular was her favourite. She went on to study Recreation and Sports Administration at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE whilst also studying to be a Personal Trainer. At the age of 19, Leanne developed a Neurological condition known as Hereditary Sensory & Motor Neuropathy. This condition, over the course of a year, degenerated muscles in both her hands and legs taking away her ability to run, jump and balance on her own. It was a scary time for her and her family, as they really didn’t understand what was happening.

Leanne began a course of treatment with a blood product called Intragam in order to manage the progress of the disorder.  She was hospitalized every six weeks for the next five years and treated with this product that was generated purely from blood donors. It was infused over a period of 5 - 8 hours on each visit, and allowed her body to slowly regenerate and become strong enough to function on its own. Whilst this was not a cure, it was a preventative treatment to delay the progress of her condition, and Leanne found solace in her ability to promote the importance of blood donation afterward.

Leanne’s younger brother Daniel also started developing the same symptoms as she had at age 19. While the condition is hereditary, it has only affected two of the three Del Toso siblings. Leanne considered herself lucky to have someone so close to her sharing the same experience of loss and disability.  Daniel and Leanne are closer now than ever.

It was a number of years later that Leanne was well enough physically, and accepting of her disability that she worked to re-enter a lifestyle that promoted both fitness and a healthy living. She began working at a local gym where she grew stronger and happier. On one particular day, Leanne noticed a flyer on the wall at work advertising a Paralympic Talent Search promoted through the Australian Paralympic Committee www.paralympic.org.au. The heading asked, “Are you the next Paralympian?”

Leanne had an epiphany in that moment that this could be the start of something wonderful. Both she and Daniel headed down to the Talent Search where they were told that they MUST get into wheelchair basketball.  The thought of using a wheelchair, especially for a sport, was both daunting and strangely curious. It took the Del Toso’s only a short time to immediately be hooked on the sport, and Leanne was ecstatic to again be able to play the sport that she loved.

Within six months, Leanne was representing Victoria in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League and soon after became a squad member for the Australian Gliders National Team. Leanne was a reserve player for the team that journeyed to the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 and soon after, she set her sights on making the team for the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Basketball became her number one priority as she focussed on preparing both physically and mentally for the task of becoming the very best she could be. Her positive attitude, determination and drive for success ensured the best possible scenario to achieve success. Leanne was able to fulfill and live out her dream of becoming a first time Paralympian as she represented Australia at the 2012 London Paralympics from August 29 to September 9. Here is Leanne's encounter of the games.

 

"When I think of my experience at the 2012 London Paralympics, I can’t help but smile and get taken away with the memories of an unforgettable journey. I left, a first time Paralympian and came home a Silver Medallist. The moments in between were the greatest of my life. 

My favourite memories were the moments before heading into a stadium. Whether it be for the Opening/ Closing Ceremony or before each of our games, just knowing that the whole of Australia wanted to see your face and the roar of the crowd just blew my mind. The Gliders were a powerhouse of proud supporters and seeing the swarm of green and gold in the crowd was extraordinary.

My proudest moment was receiving my Silver Medal. It was the result of 5 years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Whilst the team was hoping for Gold, you cant take away the hard work each and every Glider put in to being the very best they can be. Seeing my family after the ceremony completed the journey. I had in fact, made everyone proud. Looking ahead, Rio seems very far away and the decision to continue is uncertain however, the road and journey to success is infectious and one that I would love to be a part of again!" 

After alot of consideration, Leanne was determined to take her basketball career to a whole new level setting her sights on Rio. She spent the last three years training as a full time athlete ensuring she was in the best physical and emotional shape, to perform at her best to achieve success. "It wasn't solely about winning, it was about enjoying the process and each day being the best version of myself. My goal was to be the benchamrk in the program and to excel on court increasing my consistency and self belief. I could finally say that I was proud of the athlete and woman that I had become, and regardless of the outcome I would be proud of my effort." The Gliders World Championship campaign in 2014 fell short of their expectations finishing 6th. A result that left a bitter taste in their mouths.

The team began working on their culture and fine tuning their physique as well as their mental game. In October 2015, the Gliders needed to finish 1st ahead of Japan and China with only one team qualifying from the Asia/ Oceania zone. Rio became the teams only focus. Their work ethic increased coonsiderably leaving no stone unturned. Leanne along with her Victorian team the Kilsyth Cobras, had a successful 2015 WNWBL winning the National Championship and multiple awards for their undefeated season. Everything seemed to be on track. The quaifying tournament in Japan was nerve wracking and stressful for the whole team, managing comfortable wins against Japan but falling short against the ever improving China. Unfortunately, the Gliders were unable to get over the top of China losing the Gold medal match and losing their opportunity to compete in the Rio Paralympics. The Gliders have always been a medaling team at the Paralympics and not participating is the first time in the Gliders history.

Understandably, Leanne was devastated. Her dream of becoming a two time Paralympian was over. For Leanne, 2016 became a year where she could concentrate on being more of a mentor for up and coming players. She went back to basics and found love for the sport once again reigniting her passion and desire to excel. Leanne accepted failure and focussed on success once again. 2016 proved to be quite challenging as she reflected on her future with the Gliders. Rio came and went and in 2017, gave the Gliders and opportunity to start over.

With some fresh faces, new coaching staff and different priorities the team began to rebuild. The girls have competed in Japan, Germany and England playing some tough games and learning alot about themslevs as well as their opponents. Leanne was humbled by her opportunity to lead the team as Australian Captain for all 3 tours. Their preparations now turn to qualifying for the World Championships which are being held in Germany in 2018. The team must finish top 2 to be eligable to qualify, when they compete later this year against rivals Japan and China. Much the same as their previous qualification, they are determined not to leave anything to chance. 'Our team is hungry to be back on the World stage and to be ranked once again as a medal contender. We will do everything we can and use our previous losses to fuel our desire to be the best'.