Wednesday 5 – Sunday 9 September 2012
Olympic Park – Basketball Arena
Number of competitors
96 – Eight mixed teams of men and women compete, with 12 athletes (four players and eight substitutes) on each team. Each country is limited to one team.
Every player is assigned a point value based on their functional ability, from 0.5 for a player with the least physical function through to 3.5 for the most physical function. During play, the total on-court value for each team of four players cannot exceed eight points.
Read more about Wheelchair Rugby classification
Number of medal events
Field of play
Wheelchair Rugby is played on a court 28m long and 15m wide. The court is divided into two halves, with a centre circle and a goal line and key area at each end. The key areas are 8m wide and 1.75m deep. The sport is played with a regulation volleyball.
History of Wheelchair Rugby at the Paralympics
Wheelchair Rugby first appeared in the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, when it featured as a demonstration sport. Its debut as a full medal event followed at Sydney 2000, when the US beat Australia 32-31 to win the gold medal.
The aim of Wheelchair Rugby is to take the ball over the opponent’s goal line – for this to count two wheels of the chair must cross the line, and the athlete must be in control of the ball, which may be held in their lap. Contact between wheelchairs is permitted, but physical contact is outlawed. From when they gain possession, a team has just 40 seconds to score a goal. The result is a fast-moving sport that requires plenty of skill and toughness from its athletes.
Players may not have more than three players in their key area while defending their goal line, and an attacking player may not be in the opposition key area for longer than 10 seconds.
Players may throw, bat or roll the ball, but kicking it is not allowed.
A match consists of four eight-minute quarters, with the clock stopped every time there is a stoppage in play. With breaks, time-outs and stoppages, matches typically last about an hour and a quarter. In the event of a tie, extra periods of three minutes are played until the tie is broken.
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the website of the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF), governing body for the sport.
The competition begins with a round-robin stage – the eight teams are divided into two groups of four. The top two teams in each group qualify for the semi-finals, with the winners then going head-to-head in the final.
The game is supervised by two referees, who are responsible for ensuring that the game is played fairly and within the rules. They are assisted by three table officials: a scorekeeper, a timekeeper, and a penalty timekeeper. A third referee, the technical commissioner, supervises the work of the table officials.
Keys to success
Wheelchair Rugby is a fast, furious and physically demanding game. Players need to be robust, with speed, strength and stamina, as well as having excellent ball skills and the ability to think quickly and play tactically as a team.
Breaking the rules
Referees will be looking out for rule infringements. There are four types of fouls: common fouls, technical fouls, flagrant fouls and disqualifying fouls.
Common fouls occur when a player violates the rules during a genuine attempt to play the game. The penalty for a common foul is a loss of possession if committed by a player on the offensive team, or a one-minute penalty, if committed by a player on the defensive team. If a defensive foul is committed when the offensive team is in an imminent scoring position, the referee may award a penalty goal in lieu of a one-minute penalty. A player who is serving a one-minute penalty for a common foul is released from the penalty box after one minute of time has elapsed on the game clock, or if the opposing team scores a goal. Common fouls include infringements such as charging, pushing or holding another player.
A technical foul covers unsportsmanlike conduct, such as being disrespectful or playing with an illegal chair. Technical fouls are given a one-minute penalty.
A flagrant foul is any foul that shows blatant disregard for another player’s safety. The referee awards a common foul plus a technical foul, to be served consecutively. A penalty goal may be awarded in place of the common foul, but the offending player must still serve the one-minute penalty for the technical foul.
A disqualifying foul is for serious offences such as fighting. A player will be ejected from the match. A substitute is then allowed, but must serve a one-minute penalty.
Court – The playing area, measuring 28m by 15m.
Foul – Illegal interference with an opposing player, the penalty resulting in a loss of possession or one minute served in a penalty box.
Key area – An 8m-by-1.75m section at either end of the court at the goal line.
The best place to find out about wheelchair rugby is at your local sports centre. If you want to know more about clubs, facilities and coaching schemes in your area, check the websites for the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF), governing body for the sport and your National Paralympic Committee.