Chuck Melton competes at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 on Sept. 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Four years ago Chuck Melton, along with the rest of the wheelchair rugby team, fought down to the last seconds of a double-overtime gold-medal match. In what has frequently been called one of the greatest wheelchair rugby games to ever have been played, the U.S. lost to Australia by just a single point.
When talking about winning the silver medal, Melton admitted, “In the moment, it hurt. It really did. We wanted that gold. That’s what we were there for.”
Melton has been involved with the sport since 2008, and made his first national team in 2012. He initially heard about the club league through a man he met in the hospital while doing his rehab. Melton turned down the invitation for nearly five years before giving in and giving the sport a chance.
“After about five years of asking, I was like ‘alright fine, I’ll come check it out.’ And I fell in love with it the first day,” said Melton. “That first big hit? Oh yeah, I loved it.”
But it wasn’t until the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 Games that Melton was given a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Team. When asked about how he was feeling before the gold-medal match, he found it hard to put into words.
“The environment itself was just amazing - between the crowd, the setting of [the Games], everything that was at stake. Rolling out on the floor for the warmup that day, you could just feel the energy,” said Melton. “It was a feeling unlike anything I’d had before.”
The match itself was incredible, decided in the final seconds of a second overtime. The U.S. and Australia traded goals through the entirety of regulation, remaining within just a few points of each other.
Melton reflected on the silver medal with a smile: “Having time to reflect on it, I am so happy to have been a part of that team, to go through that experience. Silver is nothing to shake your head at. I’m very proud of it and I’m very proud of that team.”
Both the postponement of the Games and the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown a wrench in the team’s training plans, but they’ve all taken it in stride. While some athletes have access to equipment and training facilities, others are having to make do with what they have. But according to Melton, the most difficult aspect has been not being able to train with his teammates.
“We try to have weekly Zoom calls at least, but it does suck not being able to get together with the team and train together,” said Melton.
As the team continues to train and work towards the Tokyo Games, they have their sights set on that gold medal. The U.S. team has reached the podium in every Games since the introduction of the sport in 2000, and seeks to add to their collection next summer.
For Melton, the experience was about more than what medal the team came home with.
“One of the absolute best memories I have is just being able to look up into the stands and see my family there. That’s one of the things that I’ll mention every time someone asks me about my [favorite memory],” said Melton. “It was just amazing looking up and seeing my wife, my kids, my dad, all in the audience. They were cheering and waving and flags and it was incredible.”
Tune in to NBCSN on 25th at 7p.m. ET to relive this and many other memorable moments from the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.