Return to Richmond: Where the National Veterans Wheelchair Games Began

The 2012 National Veterans Wheelchair Games returns to their roots

Making history this summer (June 25–30, 2012) is the return of the NVWG to Richmond, Va., where the Games began 32 years ago.





• 74 veterans

• 7 events: table tennis, billiards, swimming, slalom, track, field events, and weightlifting


• 500+ veterans

• 17 events

• A team of British veterans (annual participation since 1987)

• Kids Day at the Games (local children with disabilities interact with athletes, participate in sporting events, and watch competitions)

Wheelchair sports began after World War II, when young veterans with disabilities began playing wheelchair basketball in VA hospitals throughout the United States. Interest soon spread to other sports. Veterans’ participation grew, but in 1980, VA established its Recreation Therapy Service. Since then, VA therapists have used wheelchair sports as an important tool for treating vets with disabilities.

The first NVWG commemorated the International Year of Disabled Persons, in 1981. These Games were characterized by a strong sense of common identity and camaraderie, a trait that has endured.

By 1985, the event’s growing size and complexity challenged the VA medical centers hosting the program. Because most participants had spinal-cord injuries (SCI), the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) became a co-presenter, providing financial and logistical support. PVA also initiated a program to enlist corporate participation, a major factor in the NVWG’s growth.

The British athletes who participated formed The British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association, which took the concept of organized wheelchair sports competition to the rest of the world via International Veterans Wheelchair Games.

The NVWG now is the world’s largest annual wheelchair-sports event. To compete in the Games, veterans must have significant permanent neuromuscular-skeletal disabilities and use wheelchairs for sports competition.

The public is invited to attend any of the events throughout the week of the Games; admission is free.

Come to Richmond to see the Games. You will also discover history, adventure and an easily accessible location in the Historic Richmond region—magnificent architecture, monument-lined streets, and world-class museums. Adventurous souls can brave the James River, which distinguishes the Richmond region as the only urban setting with Class IV rapids. See how the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is expanding its world-class offerings. Enjoy more than 900 restaurants as well as diverse shopping and enticing events.

Return to Richmond—where it all began! And if you can’t be there in person, the September PN will have plenty of coverage.


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