DISABILITY is proving no handicap on the basketball court for towering Ben Tudden-ham. The 202cm Special Olympian from Mt Clear is aiming to take his basketball to an even higher level over the coming 12 months against opponents who, for all practical purposes, have no recognisable disability.As an intellectually disabled athlete, Ben was part of the gold medal-winning Australian basketball team at the Shanghai Special Olympics earlier this year. He is now training with the Victoria Country team to compete at the Ivor Burge Australian Basketball Championships for Players with an Intellectual Disability, in Albury from February 16-23.The Ivor Burge championships have a less strict interpretation of "disability" than the Special Olympics, including some who are merely "developmetally delayed", which means Ben will be playing against opponents with only the slightest level of disability. It's a challenge he is looking forward to."It's a higher level of basketball for sure," the 17-year-old explains."A lot of the players don't have a recognised disability and are very tough."We're doing a lot more training for it than I've ever done before. It will be a lot harder. It's tough enough training with our own players."To compete at the higher level I have had to change my playing style, lift my fitness levels."The Victoria Country team is training two days every fortnight for at least five hours a day in the lead up to the championships. The training is being conducted in Geelong and Ballarat with a number of former Geelong Supercats players.Ben was selected from try-outs in Traralgon in May, alongside his 15-year-old brother Matthew. "It's great training together and we love playing together - Matt as point guard and me as centre," he says.It will be far from the first time Ben has played with non-disabled players. He has been a regular with Celtic Tigers in Ballarat.But competing in Shanghai has been his greatest highlight since taking up basketball as part of Ballarat's Special Olympics program.He says the support in China for the Special Olympics was terrific, with large posters promoting each event, and plenty of interest from locals."The Chinese girls and boys treated us like brothers and sisters," he says."Arnold Schwarzenegger and (giant Chinese national basketballer) Yao Ming were there, and the fireworks were amazing."The best bit was winning the gold medal, though. We wore our yellow uniforms in the first match and were thrashed by the Bahamas by 40 points. After that we changed to blue uniforms and won every game. "The only thing I didn't like was eating rice for four days straight. I was totally sick of it. When I got home, Mum asked me if I'd like some rice and I said 'no way!'."