Throughout 2017, Athletes Roll was lucky enough to be able to cover several local, national, and world adaptive sports championships in person while following along and sharing other events from afar. We started our journey in Power Soccer a few years ago so we watched quite a bit in 2017, first traveling to Indianapolis, IN in June for the US Power Soccer Conference Cup. Our hometown team, the Northeast Passage Wildcats finished second behind the BORP Crushers in the third division with both of those teams moving up to the second division in 2018. GLASA Chicago Fire and San Jose Steamrollers finished first and second in the second division to move up to the premier division which was won once again by the seven-time champ Circle City Rollers!
Athletes from the top two divisions made up the US National Power Soccer Team which we followed down to Kissimmee, FL for the 2017 FIPFA World Cup. Team USA faced off in some of the most exciting Power Soccer matchups we have ever seen against the rest of the top ten national teams. Team USA was hoping for a three-peat this year (after winning the first two Power Soccer World Cups in 2007 and 2010) but were beaten in the finals by a high-scoring France squad. Australia was a surprise entrance in the top 3 after beating Japan in the Quarterfinals led by World Cup MVP Abdullah Karim.
Although we covered so much Power Soccer this year, the other sports made it so great! Our first sport we investigated deeper this year was Sled Hockey. Spaulding Adaptive Sports allowed us to experience Sled Hockey first hand at one of their community sled hockey nights. We then took in some of the best Sled Hockey matches in the northeast at the Sports4Life Sled Hockey Classic in March. This acted as the playoffs for the Northeast Sled Hockey League with the USA Warriors, New Jersey Freeze, and New England Warriors taking home the first place trophies! Sled Hockey is an awesome sport that we’ve always heard a lot about. We hadn’t had the chance to witness the highspeed action in person until this year, but we hope to improve our coverage and continue to spread awareness about the sport in 2018!
Later on in the spring, we took in the historic Boston Marathon right from the finish line! It was truly an amazing event that completely lived up to its high prestige. A mixed group of handcyclists, led by Tom Davis, came through first followed shortly after by Women’s and Men’s push-rim wheelchair racers. The most exciting finish at the 2017 Boston Marathon (and in any race I’ve ever seen) came from the men’s race with Marcel Hug beating Ernst Van Dyk by less than a second.
The summer brought us the aformentioned Power Soccer tournaments and some Adaptive Rock Climbing in the middle! Luck was on our side again with the Adaptive Rock Climbing Nationals hosted nearby at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA. They were hosted by the Massachusetts chapter of Adaptive Climbing Group. Adaptive Rock Climbing was another new sport for us and it truly amazed us by the wide range of adaptations competitors used. Many of the athletes had either upper or lower extremity amputations. Some competed with specialized climbing prosthetics while others simply relied on their other limbs.
2017 also gave us the opportunity to give our first formal presentation on adaptive sports. We were invited by the Jett Foundation to speak to families affected by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The experiences patients and their families go through when receiving a diagnosis is truly an awful one. Our message with adaptive sports helped these families in some small way to look for the positives in adaptive sports and recreation. This year we also participated in the MDA New Hampshire Muscle Walk, much more Power Soccer, and a high-octane Quad Rugby tournament hosted by Northeast Passage. There were of course countless tournaments, events, and stories in adaptive sports outside of what we are able to cover in detail so here are our top storylines from 2017:
- University of Alabama builds a state-of-the-art training facility for their adaptive athletes.
- Prince Harry’s Invictus Foundation put on the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, CA. 2017 was their biggest year yet featuring 500 competitors, all of whom are wounded, sick, or injured service members from 17 countries, competing in 12 different adaptive sports. They’ll look to continue growing this year with the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia.
- Matt Stutzman, The Armless Archer, made the switch from Paralympic Archery to Olympic Archery. He’s been one of the best adaptive archers for several years (and even has the Guinness World Record for longest accurate shot) and now competes evenly with able-bodied athletes.
- The Nebraska Barons won their third straight Wheelchair Softball World Series title. The Barons defeated the Minnesota Rolling Twins 6-2 in the final. Wheelchair Softball showed us that the changes don’t have to be drastic to make an adaptive sport work.
With that being said, it is getting COLD around here these days with lots of snow coming soon so it’ll be a good season for some adaptive winter sports! Anything you can think of can be adapted for people with disabilities from several types of skiing to adaptive ice skating! The mono and bi-skiing is one of the coolest things we’ve seen and we really hope we get the opportunity to check it out in person sometime. This winter will also get us ready for the 2018 Paralympic Games coming up in March featuring six of the most exciting adaptive sports (more on that very soon)! Make sure to follow us on Facebook or sign up as an email subscriber on our website to get updates first as 2018 is looking like a very exciting year!