UPDATE: The National Veterans Wheelchair Games Are HEREMatthew Russell
SALT LAKE CITY GETS READY FOR THE GAMES:
The 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held June 27 through July 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The games are co-presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Adaptive Sports – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. Stories of courage and victory are sure to follow.
When disabled veterans began playing basketball in their wheelchairs after World War II, they had no idea that they were opening the way for a new realm of sports, one that would result in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. As Salt Lake City prepares for the 36th annual round of those games, hundreds of disabled vets are ready to get their game on and carry on what those determined wheelchair-bound athletes started.
While wheelchair sports slowly began to catch on after World War II, with sports such as archery and bowling being added to the roster, it wasn’t until 1980 that the Department of Veterans Affairs incorporated wheelchair athletics into its rehab programs.
The first National Veterans Wheelchair Games was held in Richmond, Virginia in 1981, and the event quickly grew. By 1985, after a few short years, the games had outgrown their venues and the VA’s ability to sponsor them, and other organizations such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America stepped in to help. The games went international in 1987 with the arrival of the first British wheelchair team, and the event has continued to grow ever since.
In 2016, the games will take advantage of Salt Lake City’s amazing venues, created for the 2002 Olympics, with the games’ annual Block Party taking place in the 2002 Olympic Village. Because the same sites were the home for the Paralympic Games in 2002, transportation for the disabled vets who will be thronging the streets of Salt Lake City is already in place.
The traditional sports and games featured at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will all be part of the competition, including table tennis, weightlifting, and swimming. Added to those this year will the games’ first triathlon and an exhibition sport that takes full advantage of the beautiful Salt Lake City location: bobsledding.
When veterans and other people with disabilities show the kind of resiliency on display at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, it inspires countless people. Click here to read the inspirational story of a young bride with disabilities due to a spinal injury who vowed to walk down the aisle at her own wedding.