Interview with a wheelchair rugby-player marking Parasport's Day

Saturday September 22nd 2018, Parasport Denmark organized Parasport’s Day. This event gave young people and children with a disability the opportunity to try out different types of sports.

Around 400 Danish sport clubs are members of Parasport Denmark. Parasport Denmark works to provide people with a disability the same opportunities of taking part in sports as everyone else. Parasport’s Day launched on Saturday 22nd 2018, and the event gives young people and children with a disability the chance to try out different types of sports. Everyone can participate no matter the type of disability.

This diversity and inclusive nature of parasport is exactly why Pressalit is one of the main sponsors of Parasport Denmark. Like Parasport Denmark, Pressalit’s products increase the possibilities and accessibility for people with disabilities. The sponsorship of Parasport Denmark therefore aligns with Pressalit’s core business and focus on diversity.

To mark Parasport’s Day, Pressalit visited a local wheelchair rugby team, Aarhus Burnouts, which consists of player at all levels. One of the team members is 37-year-old Thomas Jørgensen, who was born with muscular dystrophy. Up until 4 years ago, Thomas knew nothing about wheelchair rugby but today, he plays on the Danish talent team, and aspires to take a spot on the national team. Playing in Aarhus Burnouts, Thomas has become part of a social and committed team with strong friendships, both on field and outside. We had a talk with Thomas before practice.

How does your disability affect your everyday life?

My disability makes me physically tired. Originally, I trained as a nursery practitioner, but I cannot do that anymore. It is too physically exhausting, which means I do not have energy to do anything else. However, doing sports, working out, and attending physiotherapy helps me keep my body going.

How did you start doing sports?

I have always play all kinds of "normal" sports e.g. football and basketball, but I have also practised swimming for people with disabilities. I started playing wheelchair rugby right after the world championships 2014 in Denmark, where I was first introduced to the sport as a volunteer. At that time, I was doing an internship at what is now called Parasport Denmark. The previous president of this club also worked there at the time, and within a week, he had convinced me to start playing. He kept stopping by my desk every day, several times a day, asking me for my name and number. In the end, I gave in and then I started playing here.

What do you personally gain from doing sport?

The friendships and team spirit is what is most important to me. Previously, I have played different kinds of sports, where it was just me on the field, but it was not really my thing. I am more into team sports like football, basketball, and then of course rugby. I love being part of a team because we push each other to become better. Of course, the social side of playing is also great. We are a very social club with a strong team spirit. We have dinner the first Monday of every month, we have our annual Christmas party, and whatever else we can think of. It is the same thing going to tournaments; on field, we are rivals, but outside the field, we are all friends.

Are there any professional para-athletes, who inspire you?

I primarily look to players from other countries, for instance Ryley Batt from Australia, and then of course, I look at our Danish players, who have the same classification as I do. I am particularly inspired by Leon Jørgensen from the Danish national team and how he plays. Leon is very experienced, and he has played both in the USA and in New Zealand.

Do you dream of becoming a professional yourself?

I think most of us playing on the talent team dream of becoming a part of the Danish troupe going to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. However, the competition within my classification group is very hard. I would have to outshine someone like Sebastian Frederiksen, who is the absolute best player within my classification. So it is going to be very challenging.

What does Parasport Denmark mean to you personally?

I am still fairly new to parasport, but Parasport Denmark is definitely very important, as they provide everyone with disabilities with a lot of different sport activities. Parasport Denmark gives us a lot of opportunities, and actually we have a lot of very talented para-athletes as a result of that. For instance, our national wheelchair rugby team is ranked eighth in the world, and we have many e.g. swimmers and riders, who are doing a great job internationally too. That is why I think it would be great with even more attention on parasport in general.

Facts about wheelchair rugby

A match consists of 4 periods of 8 minutes played in efficient time.

Each team has 4 players on field at the time.

The players are classified from 0.5 to 3.5. The higher the classification, the lower is the degree of the disability.

The teams are only allowed a maximum of 8 points on the field at a time.