Close Contact: Paralympic Athletes Duel in the Desert

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Health & Fitness Issue: October 2015

Photo courtesy Duel in the DesertWhen avid golfer and baseball player Scott Hogsett broke his neck in a freak accident at a lakeside party, he thought his sporting days were over. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the 23 years since that night, Hogsett has accomplished more than most athletes could expect in a lifetime. He’s a three-time Paralympic medalist (including one gold at the 2008 games), Canada Cup winner, double world champion and featured player in the Oscar-nominated 2005 documentary, Murderball. “Of course, I wanted all three Paralympic medals to be gold. I spray paint my bronze medals every once in a while,” Hogsett quips.

Scott Hogsett / Photo courtesy Duel in the DesertHe was introduced to wheelchair rugby straight out of rehab for the spinal injury. A high-contact team sport incorporating elements of handball, ice hockey and wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby allows quadriplegics with various degrees of movement in their arms and legs to participate equally. “My first time playing it made me feel normal again,” says Hogsett, a C5/6 quad who has limited arm movement. “It’s tough to learn and has lots of different strategies.” It’s also a brutal sport that requires intense training – 5-6 hours of daily cardio, weight and cross-training exercises for elite competitors.

Though now retired with an eye on potentially coaching the 2020 Paralympic wheelchair rugby team, Hogsett will face off against fellow world-class athletes in the third annual Duel in the Desert on Oct. 23-24 at Ability 360 Sports & Fitness Center in Phoenix. Fifteen teams from across the Southwest region are competing in four events: wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, power soccer (for motorized wheelchair users) and newly added stand-up amputee basketball. Players to watch include USA rugby team members Joe Delagrave and Ernie Chun, two-time Paralympic winner Jennifer Ruddell and power soccer gold medalist Katie Dickey.

The free event also features halftime activities, food trucks and an inaugural adaptive car show previewing locally adapted vehicles and a new, not-yet-sold accessible Ford Explorer.

First-time viewers may be surprised at the endurance and ability level required to compete. For example, wheelchair rugby teams typically score 40-50 goals per game. According to Hogsett, that’s equivalent to pushing 3 ½ miles per game, for a total of about 14 miles per player over the course of the two-day event. “Once people get injured, they think that life is over. But it isn’t,” he says. “Wheelchair rugby turned out to be a perfect fit for me. It’s a challenge… and I always welcome a challenge.”

If you go:
Duel in the Desert
Ability 360 Sports & Fitness Center
5031 E. Washington St., Phoenix
602- 386-4566, ability360sports.org