Wheelchair rugby quad nations take on a new perspective of sports

The 2024 Wheelchair Rugby Quad Nations were hosted in Cardiff this year. How does this create more inclusivity in sports?

Team Great Britain went against Team USA, Japan, and France in this year’s wheelchair rugby quad nations (Credit: @wrquadnations on X)

Wheelchair rugby is not the average sport that you are used to watching, especially if you are already a rugby fan. 

Last week was the annual Wheelchair Rugby European Championship, hosted in Cardiff at the Sport Wales National Centre. Thousands of spectators came together to watch Great Britain, France, Japan, and the USA battle each other for three days of intense rugby matches. 

Rounding at 41 points during the final match, the Great Britain wheelchair rugby team came in third place in the tournament. First-place winners in the tournament were Japan, capped at 50 points, and USA, capped at 47 points.

“We showed our determination and resilience during this game. We just stick to our patterns and stick to what we know” said Great Britain wheelchair rugby captain Stuart Robinson in a sideline interview. 

Team Captain Stuart Robinson led this year’s team to third place and is in preparation for this summer’s 2024 Paris Olympics (Credit: GBWr)

A wheelchair rugby match consists of four eight-minute quarters with a squad of 12, but only four players from each team may be on the court at any time. However, the best part about this sport is that men and women can compete on the same team. 

Wheelchair rugby athletes are subjected to use combinations of stomach, back, arm, chest, and leg movement during a match. As a paralympic sport, this defies all the odds against stigmas around people who have doubts about who can participate in a game.

“GB are honored to be competing in front of such a rugby-loving nation once again, after hosting the European Championships in 2023” said Paul Shaw, who is the head coach for the Great Britain wheelchair rugby team.

The Great Britain team will have another tournament in Canada this year for wheelchair rugby before they head off to the Paris 2024 Olympics (Credit : GBWR)

Wheelchair rugby was established as a sport in 1977 in Canada by a group of tetraplegic wheelchair basketball players. After growing concerned about the functionalities of the game, the players decided to create a separate space for a new sport that intrigued them at the time: rugby. 

The sport debuted at the World Wheelchair Games in 1990 and it became a full Paralympic sport at Sydney 2000 Olympics.

It wasn’t until 1980 that the sport first was hosted in the UK when the States wheelchair rugby team visited for a match at Stoke Mandeville. Soon after, the first three clubs were established and there are now more than 30 teams in the country.

“The Welsh people took wheelchair rugby to their hearts and have provided unwavering support whenever we have competed in Cardiff,” said Shaw.

Wheelchair rugby was first founded as a co-ed sport in Winnipeg, Canada before it became an established parasport here in the UK (Credit: World Wheelchair Rugby)

Wheelchair rugby isn’t just happening in Cardiff this year, however. The Paris 2024 Olympics will be hosted this summer from August 28th until September 8th, hosting a plethora of paralympic games including wheelchair rugby, goalball, and para-cycling. 

Paralympics did not become recognized as an actual sport until after World War II when the first sports clubs for the deaf community were established. The first-ever Paralympic games occurred in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then they have taken place every four years.

Great Britain has constantly competed with the world’s best teams, qualifying for every Paralympic Games and winning five gold medals at the Wheelchair Rugby European Championships. In 2021 at the postponed Tokyo 2020 games, Great Britain took home a gold medal following a thrilling game against a strong USA team. You can rewatch this memorable game below.

Many notable British para-athletes continue to strive for inclusivity in sports today:

“This year’s event promises to be an exciting prelude to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, as we are bringing together some of the top nations in the world for one of the last competition opportunities before the games,” said Jason Brisbane who is the Chief Executive Officer for the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team.

If you missed the matches from this year’s wheelchair rugby quad nations, click here to watch them on Channel 4’s Youtube channel.