WHEEL­CHAIR RUGBY:

Three On­tario teams are vy­ing for na­tional crown at cham­pi­onship in Hamil­ton this week­end

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - Teri Pe­coskie The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor tpecoskie@thes­pec.com 905-526-3368 | @Te­ri­atTheSpec

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.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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