Our know-all guide to 'Murderball'
Al Jazeera takes a closer look at wheelchair rugby - one of the most ferocious sports played at the London Paralympics.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2012 16:59
Ryley Batt of Australia (L) has been one of the most impressive players of London 2012 so far [GETTY]

Wheelchair rugby is not for the feint-hearted. It is a full contact sport, involving big collisions and high-speed action.

The sport was invented in Canada in 1977 by group of Canadian quadriplegic athletes, who were looking for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball.

In some ways wheelchair rugby players must develop even more adaptable skills than their able bodied colleagues as wheelchair rugby incorporates elements of basketball, handball and ice hockey.

They play four eight-minute quarters on an indoor, hard surface at the Olympic Basketball Arena using a traditional volleyball.

In order to score a 'try' the ball must cross the opposition’s 'key area' along with two wheels of the athlete’s chair carrying the ball.

Players may throw, bat or roll the ball, but kicking it is not allowed. Contact between wheelchairs is permitted, but physical contact is outlawed.

Couple this to the fact that when a team gains possession, they have just 40 seconds to score a goal and the result is an intense sport where players regularly risk their own welfare producing some big collisions.

In order to protect players they play in specially developed wheelchairs that are built to withstand impact. Key design features include a front bumper, designed to help strike and hold opposing wheelchairs, and wings, which are positioned in front of the main wheels to make the wheelchair more difficult to stop and hold.

USA upset

At London 2012 there are eight teams of four players (with an additional eight substitutes) comprising of both male and female athletes. However, women are rare with only two included in the competition. 

Reigning Paralympic champions USA were favourites, with their early form justifiying the tag. In Group A they won two matches against Great Britain and Japan.

However, in the semi-finals on Saturday the favourites were shocked by neighbours Canada who defeated the defending  champions 50-49 in a closely fought contest. 

Canada face Australia in the final who have emerged as one of the teams to beat after winning all four of their matches, including a semi-final 59-45 win over Japan. 

Th gold and bronze medal matches take place on Sunday 9th August. 

Wheelchair rugby is in many ways the ultimate team sport as players must be fearless and fast. However, a mastery of intricate tactics and teamwork are also crucial for any team to be successful.

As such it is the perfect event for any spectators wishing to see some of the most skilled and courageous athletes not only in the Paralympics, but in any able bodied sport as well.

Andrew Binner is a freelance journalist contributing to Al Jazeera. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewBinner and www.andrewbinner.com.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.


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