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Disabled Athletes Redefine

Limitations In Phoenix

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Robert A. Rodriguez of Amp1/Freedom Blue, wowed spectators during a tournament championship game at Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center.
A New Rendition Of The Duel In The Desert Showcased Some Of The Best Amputee Basketball Players As Well As Wheelchair Soccer And Lacrosse Matches

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 28, 2015 — Sports fans in the Valley take note: the Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center is home to a different kind of action that you will not find anywhere else.

The accessible facility, one of the largest of its kind in the state, hosts a variety of sporting events that give fans a chance to watch some of the most talented disabled athletes from across the country perform.

After housing the USA Wheelchair Rugby team tryouts last month, the gym at Ability360 hosted the third annual Duel in Desert last Friday and Saturday.

The event brought 19 teams with players from five different states together in one place to compete in a variety of sports, including wheelchair basketball, stand-up amputee basketball, power soccer and wheelchair rugby.

Athletes, families and fans from as far away as New York filled the 45,000-square-foot venue during the two days of competition. While all of the participating athletes showed off serious skills, the amputee basketball teams drew some of the tournament’s biggest cheers.

One player in particular, Robert A. Rodriguez of Amp1/Freedom Blue, wowed spectators with acrobatic layups and eventually led his team to a 21-9 win in the tournament championship game.

Amp1, which fielded a red and blue team, consists of players from New York, California, Utah and Colorado. The group plays in tournaments across the country with a goal of growing its fan base and eventually launching an organized, national stand-up amputee basketball league.

For local fans, the Duel in the Desert truly lived up to its name by showcasing a battle between the wheelchair basketball teams from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. The Wildcats managed to defeat the Devils after a hard-fought battle.

ASU did not go home empty-handed, though. Sun Devils Power Soccer outlasted the competition, which included four other teams from around the Valley, to take home the championship trophy.

Power soccer is the first adaptive sport designed specifically for athletes in power wheelchairs. The sport originated in France in the 1970s and is now gaining more popularity worldwide.

The game involves two teams of four players squaring off on a regulation basketball court using power wheelchairs with custom front bumpers to move the ball and defend their own goal.

In addition to the sports on display in the tournament, Ability360 also demonstrated a new sport called wheelchair lacrosse at Duel in the Desert.

According to Ability360, “Wheelchair lacrosse is an eight-on-eight game played on a roller hockey rink or box lacrosse pad. Players use a manual sports wheelchair that is also used for sports such as basketball. The game consists of four 15-minute quarters, and positions include attack, midfield, defense and goalie. Equipment includes 40-inch lacrosse sticks, two D-Poles per team, a no-bounce indoor lacrosse ball and ice hockey-sized goals.”

The event also included local food trucks, kids events and an adaptive car show featuring a still-unreleased adaptive Ford Explorer and other vehicles outfitted by Arizonans.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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