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Home Town Athletes Chosen to Represent the United States (Full Story)
by Robert Murray

The sport of Quad Rugby, also known as Wheelchair Rugby was introduced to the United States in 1982, to provide a competitive sports outlet for quadriplegics. Recognized as the only full contact wheelchair sport in the world today, the game is very exciting to watch or play, in part because of its aggressive nature and allowed contact between wheelchairs.

Played indoors on a basketball court with minor changes; players pass a volleyball back and forth while trying to advance into their opponent's half court. While the offense is trying to advance the ball, the defense is trying to take it away and prevent the other team from scoring. A common defensive tactic is for a player to ram their wheelchair into an opponent at full speed in an attempt to knock them out of bounds, or flip them over. It’s a coed sport and females play just as hard and aggressive as the guys do.

To ensure that the playing field is fair, every athlete receives a classification value through a system overseen by the United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA). Classifications range from 0.5 to 3.5 points, and are based on each athlete’s function level. Players with a 0.5, 1.0 or 1.5 class tend to play the defensive role in the game, while the 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 players are ball handlers, in part because of increased hand function and speed. Teams can field up to 8.0 points between the 4 athletes that are allowed on the court during play.

There are currently more than thirty-five organized teams in the US, plus several others in development. Since its inception, Quad Rugby has grown to become a truly international sport, with twenty-two countries now competing from around the globe. Wheelchair Rugby has become a Paralympic Sport, and in 2005 was the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary “Murderball”. This film opened the doors of the sport up to millions of people, and is smashing stereotypes one hit at a time.

The United States has long dominated the sport of Wheelchair Rugby, and has won more World Championship and Paralympic Gold medals than any other nation. In an effort to keep the US’s competitive edge, the United States Quad Rugby Association recently held tryouts for its national development program, Team USQRA. Held in Birmingham, Alabama at the Lakeshore Foundation, an Olympic and Paralympic training site; 24 athletes gave everything they had over three grueling days in hopes of becoming the next generation of Wheelchair Rugby athletes for the United States.

In the end only 14 athletes were selected, each of who is expected to train hard and attend regular training camps at their expense. Each of the athlete’s goals is the same, to one day represent their country in international competition, and ultimately win a Paralympic Gold medal. With dedication, training and guidance from their coaches, each has the potential of becoming an elite athlete. Team USQRA will be led by a dedicated staff with decades of experience in the sport, and a strong commitment to greatness.