On August 29th, 4,200 athletes from 165 countries will arrive in London for the London 2012 Paralympics. If you have been glued to the TV this past week watching the Olympic competition and regretting that you’re not part of this historic event, how about booking some airline tickets to the Paralympics?  The crowds are less, the expense less and tickets are available; plus, the excitement is just as breath-taking and heart pounding as what you’ve been watching.

Twenty one sports comprise the Paralympics. Examples include archery, power lifting, shooting, swimming and wheelchair rugby. To find a complete list of Paralympic events and their locations, follow this link to the official London 2012 Paralympic site.

Wheelchair Rugby (Quad Rugby):

The US Wheelchair Rugby team won gold at the Beijing 2008 Oympics against the Australians. This year they will defend their title at the London Paralympics against eight fiercely competitive teams. The game is called Quad Rugby in the States. A person must have lost function of upper and/or lower function of their limbs. Each player is classified according to their functional ability ranging from .5 (lowest) to 3.5 (highest).  The combination of the four-person team on the court cannot exceed 8. Therefore, the coach can field 4 players with 2.0 ability or other combinations. A cone pylon, placed on either end of the court, marks the goal. The up-right (both wheels on the ground) chair and team member (no sliding in) scores points by crossing the goal line and holding the ball.

Olympians pack unusual items in their suitcases when traveling to the games, a special Teddy Bear, maybe a lucky shirt, necklace or bracelet. Those items hardly compare to what the  US Wheelchair Olympic Team carries …welders.  Yep!   This game is not for the timid. This is full contact wheelchair-ing. Special wheelchairs are constructed for the game.

Great shot of the protected wheel

These wheelchairs take a bashing and a welder travels with the team to repair tires, casters or weld pieces together “on the spot”.

One of the members of this year’s US Wheelchair Olympic Team is Joe Delagrave, affectionately called Big Joe.

Joe Delagrave

He severed his spinal-cord in a boating accident. Joe, his wife,

Alice with Delagrave son

Alice and son Braxton moved to Phoenix last year in order for Joe to train with mentor, Scott Hogsett, and the Phoenix Heat team.

According to Joe, his height (6’5″) is his biggest asset to the team. Certainly, his energy and competitive spirit come in a close second. The game has taught him about life and living, but what is most important to Joe is family. Family is his first priority.

Cheer on  Joe and the US Wheelchair Rugby team – @JoeDelagrave or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joe.delagrave

Go Joe!  Go USA!