Wheelchair Rugby rolls into the limelightSubscribe
Paddy Bedi 05 September 2012
Wheelchair Rugby, or ‘Murderball’ as it’s affectionately referred to, is a relatively unknown sport that has started to draw the attention of an intrigued, and sold-out, London 2012 crowd.
The sport is played on an indoor hardwood court, similar in size to basketball, with four players on each side that regularly sub on and off from a squad of up to 12. Along with the focussed aggression of the sport, the classification system sets the unique sport apart. All participants must have a disability which involves function loss of both upper and lower limbs. Their level of disability is classified from 0.5, meaning the greatest level of physical restriction, to 3.5. The four players on court must have an overall total of eight points or fewer.
Wheelchair Rugby has been a part of the Paralympic Games since Sydney 2000 with Team GB Wheelchair rugby team finishing agonisingly just outside the podium spots at the last two Paralympic Games, finishing fourth in both the Athens and Beijing Paralympic Games. UK Sport has left no stone unturned to try and help them move in to the medal zone increasing investment from £979,000 for Beijing to £2,361,000 for the London cycle (2009-13).
As well as supporting the athletes, the sport has benefitted from UK Sport Research and Innovation projects. The Research and Innovation team has worked closely with the athletes and technology partner Loughborough University on individual chair camber studies to optimise straight line speed and agility. This particular project goes hand in glove with a joint partnership between UK Sport, McLaren Applied Technologies and Loughborough University uses an original indoor player tracking system to begin to understand the demands of the game, tracking each athlete to see the distance covered, speeds achieved and positioning on the court.
UK Sport also invests heavily into the supportive functions around sports and athletes, for example, channelling funding into an extensive Coaching network that has seen Justin Frishberg and Paul Shaw come through UK Sport’s Paralympic Coach Development Initiative which was launched in April 2011. The Paralympic-specific programme came about following a period of consultation with the sports who had requested assistance in the development of the coaching workforce through Mission 2012.
As with all London 2012 events, the UK Sport Major Events teams also supported the GB Wheelchair Rugby World Cup being staged in Sheffield in 2009. This was one of 118 major sporting events supported by The National Lottery funded Major Events Programme aimed at helping our athletes experience competing on home soil as part of the preparations for London 2012.