To be an athlete at the Paralympic Games is a strange thing. You are there to compete in a sport; to do a task that you have spent countless hours practicing. I play wheelchair rugby. I have been in my rugby chair — perfecting the same push stroke, performing the same cuts, spins, and picks, passing and catching the same ball — upwards of 2,000 times over the past 10 years. I have arrived here in Rio de Janeiro, along with another 95 wheelchair rugby athletes, and roughly 4,300 other athletes, ready to do something that is as familiar as anything in this world. All the Hickory High clichés apply: The rugby court is still 94 feet long, there are still four players on the other team, and there are still four, eight-minute quarters, two penalty boxes, two referees, and one soft-touch rugby ball made by the Molten corporation of Hiroshima, Japan. In all quantifiable respects, I will be playing the exact same game that I have spent the bulk of my disabled life playing.
Yet this is the Paralympics.