Wheelchairs crashed together for sport Saturday afternoon. The repeating crack of colliding metal moved through the Jacksonville Ice and Sportsplex with ease. It was a sweet sound for those competing.
Wheelchair rugby teams from as far away as Idaho, New York and Washington D.C. were in Jacksonville for the last three days competing in the Southern Slam Tournament.
Hosted by Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital, the competition was designed to enhance the quality of life for those living with physical disability.
The game has changed lives and has some local players hoping to represent the U.S.A. in the Paralympics.
Fifteen players competed for the Brooks Bandits of Jacksonville.
The sport is a highly competitive, highly aggressive sport that provides physical, social and emotional well-being for the participants, most of whom have lost use of their legs from automobile and diving accidents.
"In addition to the opportunity to compete and be physical, there is an incredible benefit to the friendships that they make and what they learn from each other. A lot of these people have been living in a wheelchair for over 30 years and then there are a lot of people here that are brand new to the world of disability. They have only been using a chair for three or four months, so there is a lot to learn," said Alice Krauss, Brooks Adaptive Sports Manager.
Ronnie Adams, 25, became paralyzed at 17.
He moved to Jacksonville from North Carolina in 2012 to join the Brooks team.
"[I] seen all these guys with less function than me, being completely independent and taking care of themselves, that gave me the push. I played sports my whole life, it has kept me competitive and it got me in shape. I was overweight, now I am physically fit," Adams said.
Ronnie's parents, Ronnie Sr. and Sally, traveled to Jacksonville to watch their son compete Sunday. His father told Krauss that his son once told him he would rather be dead, but then this game changed his life.
"Without this game my son would be at home watching T.V. every day. This game has brought him into a real life, and it gives these kids so much to look forward to day in and day out. It gives them a regular life to live," Ronnie Sr. said.
Adams and two teammates, Cody Kingsland and Josh O'Neal recently made Team Force, the Paralympic farm team, with a chance in the future to make the U.S.A. Paralympic team.
"I trained really hard and was really surprised when I was selected to even try out for the team and I made it and now I have to work harder. I would like to go to the Olympics and be able to represent USA. It would mean more than I would even know how to explain to represent this country," Ronnie Jr. said.
The disabled athletes at Brooks Rehab also compete in numerous sports including tennis, archery, rowing and surfing.
More than 100 volunteers helped Brooks put on the tournament, which was won by a team from Atlanta, Georgia called Shepherd Smash.