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Paralympic Games Spotlight: Wheelchair Rugby

All eyes will be on the Yoyogi National Stadium in Japan this week when the first game of wheelchair rugby of this year’s summer Paralympics is being played.

If you’re a sports fan who’s never watched a match before – get ready for some seriously impressive displays of strength and skill! 

Wheelchair Rugby (originally called Murderball and subject to the excellent 2005 documentary of the same name, and known as quad rugby in the USA), was developed in the late 1970s in Canada by five wheelchair athletes as an alternative to wheelchair basketball, with the aim that players with reduced arm and hand function could participate equally. 

The mixed teams of four play on a standard basketball court with a ball which is the same size and shape as a volleyball. The rules are a combination of those used in wheelchair basketball, handball, ice hockey, handball and rugby union. 

The first international wheelchair rugby tournament was held in 1989 in Canada with teams from the USA, the UK and Canada participating, and there are now 25 countries with teams that compete internationally. The sport has enjoyed full medal status since the Summer Paralympics of 2000 which took place in Australia, when the USA took the gold. 

Some of the top players who you’ll get to see participate this summer include Kae Kurahashi, the first female player to represent Japan in the sport; the UK’s Kylie Grimes, who has also represented her country in athletics and Australian Ryley Batt for whom this year will be his FIFTH Paralympics!

So strap yourselves in for an action-packed ride – and best of luck to the amazing athletes from everyone at Banjo HQ!