Wheelchair Rugby at the Paralympic Games

Wheelchair Rugby was created in the 1970s in Canada, by a group of athletes with quadriplegia. The athletes initially created the sport as an alternative to wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair rugby first featured in the Paralympic Gamers during 1996 in Athens, as a demonstration sport, alongside many others. It became a medal sports at the Sydney 2000 games. Now, both men and women in over 20 countries compete in the sport.

Athletes with tetraplegia or an equivalent function may compete. The classification system was originally medically based, however in 1991 it became functionality based, a format that many other sports picked up. This change accommodated for the growing number of athletes with conditions like spinal injuries, polio and cerebral palsy etc.

The sport is played on a regular size basketball court, by a mixed team of men and women. A white ball is used, that is similar in size to a volleyball. The aim of the game is to cross the opponent’s field line in control of the ball, with both wheels clearing the line. Each match consists of 4, 8 minute quarters and the team with most scores at the end wins.

Athletes must dribble or pass the ball every 10 seconds, failure to do so will award position to the opposition. It is a contact sport, but hitting an opponent behind the rear wheel is a foul, along with physical contact with an opponent. A foul can range from losing possession of the ball, to a one minute penalty, or being disqualified.

Thanks to its origins, the United States and Canada are heavyweights in the sport. Australia and New Zealand are also great nations, which is no surprise as there is a strong rugby tradition in these countries.

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