U.S. Paralympics

U.S. Paralympics

Mar 29 Paralympic Sport Sacramento hosts Paralympic Experience

March 29, 2010, 12:22 p.m. (ET)

They are athletes with a difference. They compete at the same level as their peers, but disabled athletes must train harder and push their limits further.

That level of dedication was exemplified on March 20, a sunny afternoon near Yosemite Hall at Sac State, by about 30 kids and adults participating in activities sponsored by Access Leisure and Paralympic Sport Sacramento.

The participants came from all over Northern California for a day of quad rugby, sled hockey, hand cycling and more. They were invited to try every activity with equipment loaned by the group. Volunteers came from different paralympic sport backgrounds, including champion hand cyclists and a quad rugby coach.

"We want to show everyone that participating in sports is part of a healthy lifestyle," said Steve Hornsey, a world and national disabled water-skier champion and Access Leisure coordinator. "I've seen individuals grow. They may not be functioning on a level they don't think they can ... this allows them to reach full potential."

Hornsey moved from group to group with ease, stopping to talk often. His sincerity is evident as he looks intently at each person to whom he's talking. Hornsey knows firsthand the power of sports and the positive effect they can have on someone's life. He got his start as a disabled athlete 30 years ago in wheelchair basketball. Since then, he has become a world-class disabled water-skier, snow ski instructor and all-around athlete.

This was a day for others to show off their athleticism and put it to the test.

Professional quad rugby players coached a game between eager participants. Quad rugby, also known as murderball, is as hardcore as it appears in the documentary "Murderball." Each team tries to move the ball down the court in wheelchairs that resemble vehicles from "Mad Max." Hitting, smashing and total demolition is required, making it a pulse pounding, can't-take-your-eyes-off-it game.

Sierra Storm team members Todd Wolfe and Frankie Tenorio were on hand to coach their game of quad rugby and recruit new players. The team is made up of members all from Sacramento, Tahoe and Reno.

"It's the most fun thing I've done since I've been injured," said Wolfe, a former motocross racer. Wolfe broke his neck in a motocross accident several years ago. "I saw the 'Murderball' group of guys at my rehab hospital and I was hooked."

Participants and family members were shocked to see a paralympic gold medalist at the event. Josiah Jamison won the gold at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 100-meter class T-12 event (vision impaired). He was on hand to motivate and inspire the players as they attempted various sports.

"This event is for awareness of the different sport options for participants and also to the general public," said Hornsey. "We want the public to know that we are athletes."

Yes, you are.