Ahead of Paralympics, Event Spotlights Adaptive Sports on Grounds

April 23, 2024 By Traci Hale, vmv7mc@virginia.edu Traci Hale, vmv7mc@virginia.edu

Taking advantage of excitement building up for the Summer Olympics and Summer Paralympic Games in Paris, University of Virginia students were invited to participate in the first Wheelchair Takeover: Paralympic Pick-Up event, held Friday at the tennis courts outside Memorial Gymnasium.

Abby Fines, assistant professor of kinesiology in the School of Education and Human Development, and Matt Lowery, a doctoral student in the Kinesiology for Individuals with Disabilities program, created the event to raise awareness of sports and physical activities available on Grounds for people with disabilities.

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“We thought this was a good opportunity to invite students who normally don’t experience adaptive sports to try out some sports and highlight some popular Paralympic sports students could see this summer watching the Games,” Lowery said.

With the help of the UVA wheelchair tennis club and wrestling teams and local athletes, about 50 students were introduced to three different sports – wheelchair rugby, wheelchair pickleball and wheelchair basketball. With money from the Equipment Trust Fund, 15 sport wheelchairs were purchased, bringing the total to 23, which allows for larger groups to participate in adaptive sports opportunities.

Individuals with disabilities playing wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair rugby became a medal sport in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Summer Games, where the U.S. won the gold medal.

“Some students were hesitant at first, but everyone left with a smile,” Lowery said.

In addition to the experience of playing the sports, Lowery said events like this help grow an understanding that “para-athletes are athletes.”

“A big misconception of adaptive and Paralympic sports is that they are ‘less than’ – less challenging or less engaging compared to more common sports. Hopefully after playing on Friday, students know that these sports exist and can recognize that sport is simply sport, and most importantly that adaptive sports is sport.”

You can catch all the action from Paris when the Paralympic Games are held Aug. 28 through Sept. 8.

Individuals with disabilities playing wheelchair basketball.
Doctoral student Matt Lowery said while some of the UVA students were hesitant to play sports that were new to them, “everyone left with a smile.”
Joseph Camano playing wheelchair basketball
Third-year law student Joseph Camano is a member of UVA’s three-person wheelchair tennis club team.
Side view picture of an individual in a wheelchair.
Wheelchair basketball teams are made up of five players and seven substitutes.
Picture of an individual with disabilities playing wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair basketball has been included in the Paralympics since 1960, when it was men only. Now both men and women’s teams compete.
Picture of an individual with disabilities shooting basketball to score a point.
Lowery hopes to continue hosting more frequent experiences like pick-up wheelchair basketball games in the fall.
Photo of an individual with disabilities playing tennis.
While wheelchair pickleball is not an official Paralympic sport, wheelchair tennis will be played in Paris this summer at the Paralympic Games.
Photo of an Jacob Wald playing wheelchair pickleball.
Jacob Wald, a third-year computer science student, recently won his competitive flight at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Lake Nona, Florida.

Media Contact

Traci Hale

Senior Editor University Communications