Wheelchair rugby hits the markRugby is a fierce sport, where players must cut through the defense carrying the ball. So it is hard to imagine physically handicapped people playing the game, but there are those who dare nevertheless, with wheelchair rugby.
Obviously, wheelchair rugby has a different set of rules from original rugby. Players steer around a basketball court in wheelchairs carrying a ball the size of a volleyball.
Although there are no rough tackles that knock opponents down, players must block each other using their upper body. For those who cannot move freely due to vertebral disabilities, it is a very difficult sport.
Wheelchair rugby was developed in place of wheelchair basketball for those who could not lift their chin up to shoot, because their lower body paralysis affected upper body posture impeding their ability to shoot the ball upward.
On Sept. 25, the First Dasol Wheelchair Rugby Championship was held at Seoul’s Gomduri Gym, located in Songpa-gu, sponsored by the Korean Wheelchair Rugby Association and Clearview Healthcare Products, Inc., a wheelchair supplier. The sound of wheelchairs banging against each other as the players maneuvered around with the ball reverberated across the quiet gym. The players’ faces were sweaty but their eyes were full of determination.
Jeong Jong-dae (22), from the Seoul Pass team, proudly said “I lost 28 kilograms since I started wheelchair rugby in June last year. I feel proud to block the other team from scoring, and to score myself. I’ve become a more confident and independent person.”
Those with vertebral disabilities become unhealthy if they do not get enough exercise. So in this sense, wheelchair rugby is a very important rehabilitation sport for handicapped people.
The current president of the Korean Wheelchair Rugby Association is Hwang Jae-man, who had been a national soccer player in the 1970s. A devout christian, he has been confined to a wheelchair since 1986 after suffering an infection while doing missionary work in Mexico.
“I got the position of president when I was sick in bed last year, upon the recommendation of another director, Yoon Se-wan. It has been a fulfilling job to help the handicapped regain their will to live through wheelchair rugby,” he said.
Yoon Se-wan said, “Wheelchair rugby is the cream of the crop in rehabilitation sports. Handicapped people gain the strength to enter into the world through this sport. We have a strong team of players now, so with some support I think we can make it to the Asian Games or the Paralympics.”
by Hur Jin-seok