In addition to today’s column on Gerard Moreno (linked here) and his passion for wheelchair fencing, we met Ryan Baker, who just 12 weeks ago helped found wheelchair lacrosse.
The San Diego resident said he was interested in the sport enough to where he contacted someone at the U.S. Lacrosse organization — and they weren’t familiar with any groups playing a wheelchair version of the sport.
“I can’t play rugby, I never played basketball before my injury so I wasn’t going to do it now, I did a lot of snow and water skiing, but I was playing tennis, and my coach had a husband who was involved in lacrosse,” explained Baker. “I finally found a few friends motivated to pull wheelchair lacrosse together.”
And as a result, a rep from U.S. Lacrosse was present when Baker and friends put on a demonstration inside the Anaheim Convention Center hall, complete with sticks, helmets and nets. They go seven a side (including goalies), using standard sticks, and playing on a standard roller hockey rink (even using a goal typical size of a roller hockey game). Think of the movie amazing movie about wheelchair rugby called “Murderball,” except with sticks and balls.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Paralympic team U.S. fencer Gerard Moreno, left, sends Russia’s Marat Vusupov leaning back during the sabre competition at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
Gerard Moreno had just finished about an hour jousting with Mario Rodriguez, but didn’t seem to winded.
“I’m used to 2 1/2-hour workouts,” said the 52-year-old Moreno of West L.A. “You feel it more in the shoulders and elbows, sometimes the lower back.”
Today, he was feeling it in his heart.
Moreno, pictured here, had to be pleased to see people circled around the demonstration he and Rodriguez had just put on in wheelchair fencing, part of the three-day Abilities Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center (info linked here; it continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with another exhibition by Moreno scheduled at 2:30 p.m.).
“I’m always looking for new recruits,” said Moreno, a three-time participant in the Paralympic Games, including last summer in Beijing.
As life rolls on, Moreno and Rodriguez prefer being mobile. Their demonstration took place to show that sports can be an important part of the life for anyone who feels that a disability — especially one that confines one to a wheelchair — may have grounded their dreams.
Rodriguez, who trains in Santa Barbara, said that a cracked hip from a low-speed motorcycle accident led to terminal cancer, where a doctor told him 25 years ago that he’d only have six months to live. He fought back, although seven years ago, he had his right leg amputated.
“Fencing isn’t popular in the U.S.,” said Rodriguez. “There’s a lot of romanticizing about the sword play, but it’s a discipline that you don’t realize how difficult it is until you work at it.
“For me, it doesn’t matter what sport you participate in — be passionate about it, burn some calories, feel better about yourself, have fun and, if you have a competitive streak, you’ll find out the rules of a sport and take it from there.”
In Sunday’s column, we’ll focus a little more on the success of Moreno, who earlier this month won the bronze medal at the World Cup competition in Montreal.
Until then …
== Gerard Moreno’s bio on the U.S. Paralympic site (linked here)
== Info on the Los Angeles International Fencing Center, where Moreno trains (linked here)
== Cleveland or Orlando? Rock n’ Roll or Mick E. Mouse? A team the Lakers toppled twice during the regular season, or a team that ate ‘em up twice in the same regular season? What do those pulling the muppetstrings say about it?
== Does this mean all those Nuggets that the Lakers fans put into bags and mailed off to Cash4Gold aren’t worth as much today as they may have been last week?
== Before running to the plane parked far away at the non-downtown airport, what does Kobe Bryant do for one last hurrah before leaving the greater Denver area for the last time this season?
== Does Lamar Odom get Chris Andersen’s headband as a souvenir?
== Is George Karl still looking at the end of the Lakers’ bench waiting for them to put in Coby Karl as the human victory cigar?
== Will Ferrell, Colin Farrell or Phil Collin: Who gets the most ping-pong balls for the celebrity seat lottery draw that now takes place at the Laker exec offices for the first two games at Staples Center for the NBA Finals? Is Ryan Seacrest allowed to sit next to Ryan O’Neal? Andy Garcia next to Nomar Garciaparra?
== Would not the sight of D.J. Mbenga on the court, with or without his Lakers’ tank top, had been enough to thwart any thuggery that the Nuggets had intended to deliver during this series? Can that be part of the blueprint for the next round?
== How can you not say a few silent prayers in hopes of having Stan Van Gundy push Orlando’s magic ride all the way into the finals, to face the Lakers, just so we can hear brother Jeff Van Gundy try to defend his moves during the ABC telecast?
== What kind of shot does Jerry West, who once blistered the Bel-Air Country Club for a round of 63 at a time when he was a scratch golfer, have at luring Tiger Woods to finally come back to the thing called the NTO (Northern Trust Open, not some off-track betting site) at Riviera Country Club?
== As long as Ballpark Frank McCourt has no problem with it, why not punch up an online ballot 25 times to send Manny Ramirez to St. Louis as the starting left fielder for the NL All-Star team? But since Joe Torre apparently does have a problem with that — you could say he’s wigging out — why not type in on the online ballot 25 times the name Juan Pierre as the starting left fielder for the NL All-Star team?
== If you’re really able to muster the mental strength to log votes 25 times for Man-Ram online, do they waive the manditatory steroid test afterward?
== If Ken Griffey Jr. is fourth in the AL All-Star outfield vote — with a .218 average — what makes voting for Manny so crazy?
== What’s so horrible about David Ortiz’s .299 average? Oh, that’s his slugging percentage?
== Why doesn’t NBC just have Conan O’Brien drop the puck for the first two games of its coverage in the Stanley Cup Finals and see what kind of marine life they throw at him on the ice?
== How low a blow must the sport of boxing endure if it allows Jose Canseco, once knocked on his wallet by Danny Partridge, to find a pay-day in Japan only to get pummeled again, this time by a 7-foot-2 sumo champ, and not be DQ’d by a post-game urine test?
== Rachel Alexandra says she needs a vacation? Already? How do we nag her to change her mind?
== What kind of hurdles does Jim Tracy immediately face as the new Rockies’ manager, aside from altitude sickness from a sickening bullpen? If Colorado sinks any quicker in the NL West, think they’d be willing to deal Houston Street to the Dodgers for … James McDonald?
== As long as we’ve opened it up to Slater for first-ball duties, can we screech for Dustin Diamond to take a spot in the middle of the diamond next time?
Rick Reilly now owns the rights to the phrase “Life of Riley”? Brand right he does. Apparently (linked here, with all the paperwork) so that Pat Riley wouldn’t beat him to it someday while renewing the trademark of “three-peat.”
Seems like R-squared is just doing the safety dance.
Which reminds us: Erin Andrews on “Dancing With the Stars” — as a competitor? It would be to ABC’s benefit to have the lady with the tight dress come on each week in even tighter clothing and try to dazzle the judges. Especially after her performance in Thursday’s ESPN and ABC coverage of the National Spelling Bee.
While she lobbies for that honor (linked here), we also learned this week that, in the world of media graffiti:
== ABC could use some help with its graphic spelling — or an alternate pronounciation — especially during the Spelling Bee (linked here)
== And an ESPN.com writer makes a pitch for having learned new sports words this week (linked here).
== Yes, Conan O’Brien is directly responsible for the NHL starting the Stanley Cup finals with back-to-back weekend games on NBC (linked here)
== And yes, a stupid cartoon gopher is directly responsible for the NASCAR ratings taking a dive on Fox (linked here)
== The coaches who decide their national football champion for USA Today will keep everything non-transparent starting in 2010 (linked here)
== If you believe Manny Ramirez should be eligible for fan voting into the 2009 MLB All-Star Game, join those who voted “yes” at this ESPN.com poll (linked here).
== Why spend the time and money printing actual media guides any more, when the media would just a) throw ‘em away and b) go looking for the PDF online anyway (linked here).
== AND FINALLY …
== After seeing this during the ABC Indianapolis 500 coverage on Sunday, yes, it’s wrong: