GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Athletes from around the United States gathered in Grand Rapids Saturday and Sunday for the tenth and largest Thunderfest wheelchair rugby tournament Mary Free Bed has ever hosted.
Wheelchair rugby is played four-on-four on a basketball court, using a volleyball.
While it may be different from rugby, participants told FOX 17 that it’s still an extremely competitive, fast paced, contact sport.
“Ten seconds to inbound or pass to a player, ten seconds to dribble, 12 seconds to get across half court, 40 seconds to score, so it’s very fast paced,” explained participant Chris Hull. “It just comes from wanting to win. The drive to win, to be an athlete, be considered an athlete and take a sport very seriously…I mean, some people look at this and think, ‘oh, it’s recreation for people in chairs,’ and some people do see it that way and that’s okay, but there’s athletes here that really want to win.”
Hull was one of 60 athletes who competed in Thunderfest’s 15 games throughout the weekend.
Those 60 athletes made up seven teams competing from all over the country.
“Two of our players are from Florida. Two of our players are from Denver and one is from Ohio,” Hull explained.
Meanwhile, Noah Currier, the founder of “Team Oscar Mike Militia,” added, “Everywhere from Washington and Oregon, all the way down to Puerto Rico. They come from literally all over the country.”
Team Oscar Mike Militia is made up of veterans.
“I think veterans like bonding with each other and adaptive sports is really a necessary tool to keeping your life active,” Currier explained. “I mean, it’s full contact. You can play as a quadriplegic or missing all your limbs and it’s amazing.”
Mary Free Bed’s wheelchair and adaptive sports program is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
It serves more than 1,200 people each year through competitive teams, clinics, classes and events.
Mary Free Bed’s team, the Grand Rapids Thunder, won the National Division II Championship back in 2018.
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