10 Things To Know About USA Wheelchair Rugby

By Jen Remick Allred | Aug. 26, 2019, 7:16 p.m. (ET)

Ernie Chun of wheelchair rugby
Ernie Chun competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 23, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Team USA is getting ready for a rivalry showdown with Canada at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019. Here’s ten things to know before you tune in:


#10 Roots in Canada
Wheelchair rugby, initially named Murderball was created in 1977 in Winnipeg by a group of aspiring athletes looking for a new adapted team sports opportunity.  Officially recognized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in 1994, Wheelchair Rugby made its’ debut at the Paralympic Games Sydney 2000. Today, more than 40 countries have wheelchair rugby teams. 

#9 On the Big Screen
Canada and the United States have a strong sports rivalry chronicled in the 2005 documentary Murderball, nominated for an Academy Award that year. 

#8 Not just for the guys
While wheelchair rugby is a male dominated sport, women are rostered on several teams including Canada’s Melanie Labelle. Colombia and Chile also have female athletes on their rosters at these Games. Expect to see some more female athletes on the court in Tokyo.

#7 Four on the Floor
Wheelchair rugby is played in four, eight minute periods. Four athletes at one time are permitted on the court for each team. Each athlete receives a sport classification based on functional physical ability with a point value from .5 - 3.5. No more than eight points are allowed on the court at any one time in the game for either team.

#6 Thrills and spills
Wheelchair rugby is a fast and furious full contact sport. Contact is an important and encouraged element of the game as athletes to use their chair to block their competitors. It is not uncommon for big hits to send athletes, and their chairs, soaring! 

#5 Give It a Try
Wheelchair rugby, played on a hardwood court, brings together elements of basketball, handball and rugby. A “try” is a point in wheelchair rugby, a term borrowed from rugby matches. 

#4 Sweet Home Alabama

Athletes and staff from USA Wheelchair Rugby hail from across the United States. Their main training site is the Lakeshore Foundation U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site in Birmingham, Alabama where the team trains throughout the year.

#3 The U.S. has been on the podium in every Paralympic Games
The U.S. has had a podium finish in every Paralympic Games with a gold in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, bronze in London 2012 and silver in Rio 2016.  The U.S. has its’ sights set on keeping that streak alive by bringing home a gold from Tokyo. 

#2 Looking for a New Result
At the Parapan American Games Toronto 2015, the Canadians lost to the Americans in pool play but went on to beat the U.S. in a thrilling showdown to take the gold.  The U.S. is laser focused to not repeat that outcome here in Lima.

#1 It Is a Must Win Situation
Only the top finisher at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 will get a spot in Tokyo.  Failure to qualify in Lima will leave teams with only one more opportunity, a qualification tournament in early 2020, location and dates to be announced soon.