'Like a big family': Veterans compete in wheelchair rugby at Raleigh Convention Center

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Monday, February 27, 2023
Paralyzed Veterans of America host rugby game for veterans in Raleigh
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Plenty of action happened Sunday inside the Raleigh Convention Center as determined athletes competed in wheelchair rugby.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's plenty of action happening inside the Raleigh Convention Center when you watch wheelchair rugby played by determined athletes. The ball's chased and passed with enthusiasm, and the occasional collision. But they keep rolling, and scoring.

"We've got fifteen teams from all over the country, and we're like a big family. We play each other, we're competitive. We're hitting," Army veteran Chris Hull said:

The games, hosted by Paralyzed Veterans of America, involve athletes like Army veteran Davis Celestine who said it's more than a workout for the competitors.

"You have to condition yourself, push your chair, get to the gym. If it's swimming or hand cycling, to do some cross training, so you can get that competitive nature," he said.

A first time viewer was surprised when told what he saw was considered lower bracket play.

"So these aren't nearly as fast as some of the upper bracket games. Man, it's killer," said Hull. "Full contact, kill the man with the ball."

Celestine said some of the wheelchair athletes will take it to the next level.

"Their goal is to become a Paralympian, to play for the USA team. But for me, I'm content," Celestine said. "That ship already sailed."

While reporting this story, the sound of those wheelchairs colliding got our attention. So we asked what it's like out on the floor in the heat of a big game.

"Man, it's intense. You're focused," Hull said. "It's just like any other sport. You start to slow down when you play it. It's like linebacker in football. You gotta think quick and be on the ball. That's what we're doing here."

The winner takes home the coveted Gold Cup, and bragging rights.