National Veterans Wheelchair Games Come to Minneapolis

In Here's the Spin, News by Kim Byers

More than 500 disabled veterans will compete in the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world, the 25th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, June 27 – July 1 in Minneapolis. Veterans from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will join the other competitors at the Games this year.

“We are proud of these talented athletes, our volunteers who make these Games possible and the communities that open their doors and their hearts to these heroes,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.

The Wheelchair Games, presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments.

Sports are important in the therapy used to treat many disabilities.

For many injured veterans, the Wheelchair Games provide their first exposure to wheelchair athletics. The Minneapolis VA Medical Center and the PVA Minnesota Chapter are hosting the 2005 Games.

“Year after year, the rehabilitative nature of the Games provides endless opportunities for our wheelchair athletes to pursue their athletic goals and dreams,” said PVA National President Randy L. Pleva, Sr. “The Games also serve as a stage where we can show the world what we can do – to soar far beyond any physical limitations we might have and reach previously unimagined levels of success.”

At the Games, veterans will compete in track and field, swimming, basketball, weightlifting, softball, air guns, quad-rugby, 9-ball, bowling, table tennis, archery, handcycling, a motorized rally, wheelchair slalom and power soccer.

Trap shooting, golf and a power wheelchair relay will be exhibition events this year. The 25th National Veterans Wheelchair Games kick off June 27 with a wheelchair basketball demonstration at Peavey Plaza, as well as the 2005 Disabled Sports, Recreation and Fitness Expo.

At the Opening Ceremonies on June 27, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson will deliver remarks, along with PVA National President Randy L. Pleva Sr. A special first-time wheelchair sports demonstration will be held at the Mall of Americas on Wednesday, June 29.

Thursday, June 30 is “Kids Day at the Games,” when local children will visit with the athletes and learn about wheelchair sports. Commemorative activities are also planned recognizing the 25th year of the event.

From June 27 – July 1, actress Bo Derek, Honorary Chairperson of VA’s National Rehabilitation Special Events, will attend the events to visit with athletes and present medals.

Many of the events will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, also the site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Other venues include South Town Bowl, Eden Prairie Bowl, McMurry Field, Metro Gun Club, Braemar Golf Course, the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, Lake Harriett, the Ft. Snelling soccer fields and Como Park