Queensland Gladiator

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2011, when Zac, then aged eleven, was selected to represent Queensland in the Australian National Electric Wheelchair Sports competition.   

My son Zac who is 11 years old has been selected this year to represent Queensland in the Australian National Electric Wheelchair Sports Competition. I am so proud of his achievement.

Since he was diagnosed with a very rare form of muscular dystrophy called myotubular myopathy at 6 months old I have watched his mobility become more and more restricted. When he went into an electric wheelchair full time two years ago, I looked around for an activity that could connect Zac with other people in wheelchairs. I found electric wheelchair sports at a school a long way from our home in an annual wheelchair sports demonstration.

I had never heard of electric wheelchair sports before but here they were – sports for people in electric wheelchairs. I immediately wanted Zac to be involved and took him along. This was 18 months ago. He loved it, for the first time I saw him get that competitive look in his eyes and when he got his first goal it was priceless. In fact, we were both hooked. It is lovely to see him be enthusiastic and be able to compete in sports. Zac has played all year and has qualified for the Queensland Gladiators team for the first time.

The sports include hockey, soccer, and rugby league. Each have been modified slightly from the standard rules of each sport, in order to ensure everyone can play. Soccer, for instance, was played with a monster inflatable balloon, while touch rugby league didn’t even have a ball. Okay, I might need to explain that last one a bit. Because a lot of the players couldn’t pass a real football, they use numbers instead. For instance, Zac is number four. If someone wanted to pass to him, they would call his number and he’d yell “Got it”, meaning he then had the ball. If Zac wanted to pass to someone, he’d call their number. I couldn’t watch them play rugby at first as the way to tackle an opponent is by smashing their wheelchair into their opponents. Something that went against all our rules of how to use a wheelchair safely.

The beauty of this competition is that these sports aren’t dependent on strength or physical prowess but instead on strategy and the ability to drive one’s chair. All Zac knows is that it is incredibly fun and that it is an opportunity to play sport like all his friends. I have seen the greater benefits the sport has to offer and this includes Zac being mentored by the older players, some in their 30’s and for me connecting with other parents and forming fantastic support networks.

I will be heading down to Sydney in April with Zac as his carer and official timekeeper for the team. Zac has set his sights on being selected into the Australian team to compete in the European International competition in Switzerland. So fingers crossed!

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