US Rugby Team Defends Gold Medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London

The name Delvin McMillan may sound unfamiliar now, but in just a
few weeks his name may be reverberating throughout London’s Olympic Park
Zone for the 2012 Paralympics from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. McMillan will be
competing in his first Paralympics for the 2008 gold medal-winning US
wheelchair rugby team.

The fourteenth Paralympics will feature a total of 19 sporting events at
the London games. Athletics, which includes track, field and road competitions,
is the largest competition on the Olympic program featuring 1,100 athletes
competing for 170 gold medals. Swimming is the second biggest competition
featuring 600 athletes competing for 148 total medals. Niche sports heavily
played across the world but perhaps not mainstream in the United States like
rugby, bocce and table tennis, are expected to be hot ticket items in London as



“No matter if the sport is mainstream or niche, viewers are going
to see elite competition of the highest level,” Julie O’Neill,
team leader, sport performance division, United States Olympic Committee, told
O&P Business News.

O’Neill believes the US wheelchair rugby team is the team to watch
this summer. Since 2005, the US team played in more than 70 events, losing only
two exhibition matches. Per Paralympics classification rules, every player is
assigned a point value based on functional ability, from 0.5 for least
functional players to 3.5 for the most functional. The rugby team has put
together an amazing number of wins despite not having a single 3.5-point player
on the team. The team just finished a training camp in late May.

McMillan contracted Hantavirus pulmonary disease in 2001 while serving
in the Air Force at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. The disease caused
his lungs to collapse and his kidneys to fail. Doctors were forced to perform a
bilateral transfemoral amputation. Doctors also amputated his right hand and
part of his left hand.

A 3.00 classification player from Mobile, Ala., McMillan started
competing in wheelchair rugby in 2005. His first national team event was in
2010. Although he has competed in international competitions, McMillan knows
the level of play at the Paralympics will be much higher.

“I just look forward to competing and being an asset to the
team,” McMillan told O&P Business News. “I was not on the
team that won gold 4 years ago. I hear a lot of the guys talk about their
experiences in 2008. That’s the ultimate goal we all strive for,
especially the younger players. Win gold. The only way we’re going to do
that is to train hard and push through. That’s just what we do. Train and
push hard.”

According to O’Neill, Paralympics hopefuls should be at the
pinnacle of their training for competitions and selection events. Although the
athletes are based across the country, many have been training through the
winter in the South or Southwest — warm weather regions — to maximize
their training. The athletes can be found in the same training facilities as
able-bodied Olympic hopefuls.

“We have high performance staffs working with the athletes on a
daily basis,” O’Neill said. “The type of training is of
comparable intensity and volume to their able-bodied counterparts. There are
modifications to that and how it impacts performance, but an elite marathon
runner will be doing a comparable volume of training as able-bodied

Although the training methods of each individual athlete may be
different, the goal is ultimately the same: peak at the right time. This is
true for individual athletes and as well as those in team sports who must hit
their stride as they maneuver through their pools and into the single
elimination rounds. When they are not in camps, members of the rugby team
perform personalized workout routines 4 to 5 days a week on their own to stay
mentally and physically sharp.

“My day starts at 4:30 a.m. when I’m training,” McMillan
said. “The days are long and it requires a lot of sacrifice because most
of us have full-time jobs too.” — by Anthony Calabro


London 2012 Paralympics. Wheelchair Rugby. Available at: Accessed May 3, 2012.

PBS. Medal; Quest: American Athletes and the Paralympic Games. Available
Accessed May 7, 2012.

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