Power wheelchair users have a chance to showcase their skills
For the first time in National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) history, power wheelchair athletes got to compete in their own obstacle course finale.
And Eddie Younger followed his patient, low-and-slow game plan to take home the title at the 2023 NVWG, co-sponsored by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in Portland, Ore.
The 58-year-old Army veteran finished in 2 minutes, 28.33 seconds in the motorized obstacle course known as Super Motor Course (Super M) to win the title Sunday inside the Portland Convention Center.
After having an advanced obstacle course known as Super G for manual wheelchair users for years, NVWG organizers added one for power wheelchairs for the first time this year.
“I like this. I’m glad they added it in there and makes me look forward to it,” says Younger, a Maugansville, Md., resident.
Younger, who served from 1982 to 1996 in infantry and small arms repair before sustaining a spinal-cord injury in Fort Polk, La., in the mid-1990s, participated in the regular motorized obstacle course known as slalom earlier in the week. The top eight athletes — Younger, along with Rickey Riley, Chuck Scott, John Melvin, William Hendrickson, Al Marconi, Ismael Baca and Brian Delaney — with the fastest times from the regular motorized obstacle course known as slalom advanced to the Super M.
The Super M course featured harder obstacles — including an area where motorized wheelchair athletes had do a figure-eight between two big orange cones and not knock down those cones or the pickleball balls on top of the cones, as well as double reverse and extra extended reverse lanes.
Although Hendrickson finished the course in a faster time, he had more penalties from hitting cones and knocking a pickleball ball off one. Meanwhile, Younger was more patient and avoided penalties.
“I go for the accuracy and not the time,” Younger says.
Younger says the obstacle course known as Super M gives motorized wheelchair users extra motivation now. And he knows exactly what he’s going to do with his award.
“I’m going to hand it and show it to my 14 grandkids first,” he says.
Team Pacific Dogwood Wins Wheelchair Basketball Title
Team Pacific Dogwood’s duo of U.S. Paralympian gold-medal sled hockey player and Army veteran Rico Roman and Navy veteran Jeff DeLeon helped them earn a wheelchair basketball championship title.
Roman finished with a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds, while DeLeon had 18 points and seven rebounds to push Team Pacific Dogwood to a 51-40 gold-medal game win over Team Acer on Sunday afternoon at the Portland Convention Center in Portland, Ore.
Joe Wittkamp led Team Acer with 16 points and had one rebound, while Freddie Smith had 10 points and four rebounds. Jimmy Green also had eight points and six rebounds, and Glenn Fritz added six points and five rebounds.
Glenn McClary had five points and two rebounds, Welton Locklear added four points and three rebounds and Sam Shivers had two points and two rebounds for Team Pacific Dogwood.
A 68-year-old Army veteran and Pembroke, N.C., resident, Locklear served from 1974 to 1978 as a paratrooper/artillery and sustained a level T10 spinal-cord injury on Nov. 11, 1980, after an automobile accident in Pembroke. He’s been coming to the Games since 2002 and says he’s only missed two during that span.
“It’s great ’cause it’s a lot harder to get gold medals. That’s what you strive for, and you’ve got to work for it so it’s not given to you,” Locklear says. “Yeah, it’s hard to get that gold. Everybody wants it, but only one team is going to get it.”
Team Pacific Dogwood led 24-20 at halftime and Team Acer cut the deficit to just two at 30-28 with 14 minutes and 16 seconds left in the second half, but Team Pacific Dogwood went on a 10-0 run to open the game up and build a 40-28 lead with 8:26 remaining. DeLeon scored six points during that run, while Shivers and Roman added two apiece.
Team Acer rallied to cut the deficit to 40-34 with a basket from Green, but DeLeon hit a 3-pointer and Roman added back-to-back baskets to give Team Pacific Dogwood a 49-36 edge with 2:15 left and seal the game from there.
Two teams of pickleball partners each captured titles at Sunday afternoon’s 2023 National Veterans Wheelchair Games, as the sport made its debut as a medal competition inside the Portland Convention Center.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Southeastern Chapter members Lisa Maddox and Eric Turman defeated PVA Mountain States Chapter members Steven Hutchcraft and Todd Costa in three games in the main division, while Chet Miller and Franz Wall defeated Renae Byrd McMinn and Julie Casal in the quad division.
An Army veteran, Maddox served from 1989 to 1991 as military intelligence and 1996 to 2004 as a medical corps physician. She’s a left-above-the-knee amputee as the result of some surgeries she had during active duty. A 56-year-old Grovetown, Ga., resident, Maddox just started playing pickleball in March and loves the sport. After losing the first game, 11-10, she and Turman won the final two, 11-0 and 11-4. They got in a rhythm the second game.
“And when we came out for the third game, and I looked at Eric, and I said, ‘Let’s just stay in the rhythm, not ‘let’s go out and win again.’ Just let’s just stay in our rhythm, do our things, play our game,” Maddox says. “And if you play your best and you get beat, you get beat.”
Team Mount Rainer Captures Power Soccer Title
Team Mount Rainier won the power wheelchair soccer title Sunday afternoon, defeating Team Mount Adams, 2-1, in the gold-medal game at the Portland Convention Center.
Army veteran and 52-year-old PVA Buckeye Chapter member Brett Clingan played on Team Mount Rainier and enjoyed his experience.
“I really appreciated it. I really enjoy the team-build that we do there,” says Clingan, who lives in Cleveland and has a neurological disease. “… I just really appreciate just coming together.”