Rugby in a Wheelchair?
Wheelchair rugby, aka. Quad-Rugby, was invented in 1977 by a group of Canadian quadriplegic athletes looking for an alternative to wheelchair basketball, a sport that can be practiced by players with severe limitations of mobility in their arms and hands, and allows them to compete on equal terms.
By the year 1996, wheelchair rugby made its first appearance in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta, but only as a demonstration modality. The Olympic Committee took a few years to approve it as an official category in the games, is important to know that the modality can only be practiced by those who have serious motor deficits making it impossible for them to even practice wheelchair basketball, for example.
It was not until the year 2000, in the games held in Sydney, that this sport was finally incorporated into Paralympic program, with mixed teams, that means that men and women can play on the same team. The sport, as was originally developed, incorporates some elements of basketball, handball, volleyball and ice hockey, and has since become one of the most popular among the spectators of the Paralympic Games.
The last Olympic competition on this discipline was on the 2016 Summer Paralympics, held in the Arena Carioca -the unofficial name for the Rio Olympic Arena-, the games were celebrated from September 14th to September 18th and 8 teams qualified around the world to compete on this sport. The medal rank ended like this: Gold for Australia, silver to the United States and bronze for Japan.
Quad-Rugby Couldn’t be More Different from Traditional Rugby
First of all, it’s an indoor sport. as weird as it sounds for this kind of sports, wheelchair rugby is played on an adapted basketball court. It’s also played with a white ball, identical to those used in volleyball. The objective is to cross the goal line of the rival’s side of the field with the ball, and each team can have up to 12 players, although only 4 play at the same time on the field.
Every match lasts 32 minutes, which are divided into 4 times of 8 minutes each. The 1st and 3rd intervals are 2 minutes, while the 2nd interval is 5 minutes long. A crash between wheelchairs is allowed, but physical contact between players is not. This discipline, therefore, requires competitors to be endowed with great doses of skill and strength.
Like basketball, each attack has a time, which is around 40 seconds. If at that time the team fails to score, possession of the ball goes to the opposite team. The goal is scored when a player exceeds the goal line with two wheels of his chair and the ball in his possession. Players are still classified according to their degree of disability, from 0.5 to 3.5, the sum of the classifications of four players in the field cannot be greater than 8.
These are at roughly the highlights of this interesting modality of our favorite sport. If you want to watch it live, you’ll have to wait till 2020, when the Paralympic Games take place in Tokyo. And when you catch a game, you’ll know where it comes from and the general rules of engagement.