The U.S. Heads To Wheelchair Rugby Worlds With Women Named To The Team For The First Time

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Liz Dunn trains with the U.S. wheelchair rugby team ahead of the 2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championships.

 

The Paralympics Paris 2024 could be the first time a U.S. woman is named to a wheelchair rugby team. Dunn and Adam are hoping to be the ones to make history.

“It’s about time for that to happen!” Dunn proclaimed about Team USA. 

Dunn first found out about wheelchair rugby thanks to a woman. After suffering a spinal cord injury due to a car accident in college, one of her peer mentors and friend, Katie Smith, introduced her to the sport. Soon after the Warren, Pennsylvania native started playing club ball for the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers with that same friend.

“It was great being introduced by another woman in the sport,” Dunn shared. “It can be a little intimidating to start when you’re new to the sport.” She later befriended Paralympic medalists Delagrave and co-captain Chuck Aoki and committed to trying out for the national team.

And while the co-ed locker room has the potential for awkward moments, Adam said the guys still treat the women on the team the same as they would anyone else. 

“[Teammate] Kory [Puderbaugh] still smashes into me hard,” Adam laughed. “But it took a little while for some of those hard-hitting players on our team to hit me the same way they would hit somebody else. But me being the primary ball carrier, that’s part of the game to try to knock me over in my chair.”

The same goes for the coach. “Certainly, Joe still yells at Liz and I if we’re messing up on the court, he’s going to yell at us,” she said. “He expects us to take it like an athlete.”

On top of being an athlete, Adam — who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in graduate school — also works full-time as a professor of occupational therapy at St. Louis University. “I’ve had great support and mentors along the way that have worked full-time and trained, so I’m learning from them how to manage the grind.”

The self-described “rookie of the team” is willing to take all the advice she can get. Having competed in her first international competition in March, she had only played the sport for two years before being named to the national team squad. It was her first wheelchair rugby tryout ever!

“I’m new and I’ve certainly got a lot of learning to do,” said Adam, who grew up playing softball and prefers team sports. “But looking back on my first USA camp in January, I feel like an entirely new player. I feel like I know what I’m doing and that I’ve earned the spot that I have on this team and I’m excited to fill that role.”

The 2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship will take place Oct. 10-16 with games streamed live and on-demand at www.2022wrwc.com.

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