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adaptive sports

Jen Lumm / FotoJENic Journeys

The fourth-placed Tampa Generals Wheelchair Rugby Team may not have finished in the "top three" during last weekend's international tournament, but the Generals' Leevi Ylönen was named Most Valuable player.

Here are the final results from three days of play during the 22nd annual Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament held at the All People’s Life Center.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

After six days of intense and sometimes grueling competition – the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games came to a close Thursday night in Tampa.

And like the decathlon in the Summer Olympics, the closing day feature what is considered the “to event” for wheelchair athletes at the games.

It’s the “Super G” – a slalom-like course of complex wooden ramps. Some tilt while others are covered with uneven blocks of wood or strips of carpet that can easily tip a wheelchair.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week, the Tampa Bay region is hosting more than 600 elite athletes, their coaches and families.

Opening ceremonies for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held this weekend at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Outside, under an inflatable arch, the first event, a hand-cycling race for 5K and 10K, started and finished.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

In just a few weeks, Tampa will host more than 500 veterans in town to compete in the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

And 3,000 volunteers are needed to help with setting up equipment at the venues, serving meals, monitoring buses and to cheer on the athletes as “Fans in the Stands.”

Bobbie O'Brien

Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are encountering a different mindset at area VA hospitals. The younger, post-9/11 veterans are used to X-Games and high-velocity sports.

So, therapists and doctors are adapting. One wet and wild example was sponsored recently by the James A. Haley VA Hospital.

A Veterans Adaptive Water Skiing Expo showed veterans the ropes recently at Seminole Lake Park in Pinellas County.

Bobbie O'Brien

Putting injured veterans back into sports they played prior to their injury or getting them to try new sports is Jamie Kaplan’s goal. He is a recreational therapist at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital and coordinates the adaptive sports programs.

“You’re looking at a group of ultra-competitive men and women,” Kaplan said. “They got into the military because they like being outdoors, they like being active, they like doing sports and we want to show them that post-injury they can continue to do those things.”