LONDON (AFNS) -- The first wheelchair rugby game during the 2014 Invictus Games went to the United States as they grabbed an early lead and never relinquished it here Sept. 12.
USA Team beat Australia 14-4 to advance in the tournament with a 1-0 record.
“It was a pretty good game,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jacob Rich. “We have a lot of good players on our team.”
The United States used their team speed to jump all over the Australians, scoring a goal within the first minute of the match. They managed to maintain that pace through the first half, holding a 7-1 lead at halftime.
“We felt pumped at halftime; we didn’t want to let off any," Rich said. “We scored seven pretty quick. We were afraid that if we slowed it down, it may turn the tables and (Australia) could get the momentum."
The Australians managed three goals in the second half, but USA Team doubled their first half goal total to get the win easily.
The majority of the players on the United States’ team are new to the sport of wheelchair rugby, Rich said. Beyond that, they’ve only been practicing as a team for three days so cohesion will be a focus going forward in the tournament, but not at the expense of the moment.
“My main goal is to have fun,” Rich said. “It would be nice to go home with a medal, but this whole thing is all about competing and having a good time; having that camaraderie between my fellow servicemembers and other nations.”
Wheelchair rugby is played with four players from each team on the court at a time. The only way to score is for one player to carry the ball, with full possession, across the goal line. The wheelchairs, however, are fitted with guards, enabling players to slam into each other to keep their opposition from crossing the goal line.
“My favorite part of wheelchair rugby is probably the physicality of it,” Rich said. “I try to get in front of (an opponent) and keep him out. That’s my goal, to outpush whoever is on the court.”
The Invictus Games run through Sept. 14 at the site of the 2012 summer Olympics and will feature athletes competing in various Paralympic-style events, including swimming, track and field, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby, among others.