Three Ontario teams are vying for national crown at championship in Hamilton this weekend
What sticks with you when you watch a game of wheelchair rugby isn’t what you see. It’s what you hear. This sport is metal slamming, rubber squealing on hardwood and bodies slicing through the air. It’s the collective gasp of the crowd when a player tumbles over. It’s limbs and sweat connecting with a gym floor.
Those were the noises emanating from the David Braley Athletics and Recreation Centre at Mohawk College Friday, when the 2017 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Championships kicked off.
The action continues until Sunday, when the medal games take place — Division 2 at 11:45 a.m. and Division 1 at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free.
“It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s a completely different, new experience,” said Catherine Cadieux, CEO of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association. “It’s something you’ve never seen before and you’ll be absolutely amazed.”
It’s probably something you’ve never heard before, either.
Created in Winnipeg in the 1970s, wheelchair rugby is played in more than 25 countries and is a summer Paralympic sport. It’s graceful and violent — a full-contact amalgam of wheelchair basketball, handball, hockey and, of course, rugby.
Ontario has three teams in the tournament, with the Ontario Lightning and Ontario Thunder in Division 1 along with the top teams from Alberta, B.C. and Quebec. The Ontario Storm are in Division 2 with representatives from Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. and New Brunswick as their opponents.
Many of the athletes are either members or former members of the national team and are among the best in their sport in the world.
For more information, a tournament schedule or to stream games online, visit the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association website at cwsa.ca.
In a demonstration game prior to the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Championships at Mohawk College, team Saskatchewan’s Miranda Biletski, left, lobbs the ball over defender Laura Wilson, Executive Director Ontario Wheelchair Sports. The championships run through Sunday. See and hear more at thespec.com.