From injury to National Veterans Wheelchair Games
Oregon City resident Tim Vixay competed this July at the 42nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, his 10th games since he became paralyzed in 2008.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served two years in amphibious assault before his injury, Vixay competed this year in wheelchair rugby, bocci and 9-ball.
Vixay, who first participated in the Wheelchair Games in 2009, has won medals in previous games in rugby, track and swimming.
“When I was first injured and in the hospital, my mom told me that the unique thing about a spinal cord injury is that the worst it ever was going to be was right then,” Vixay told the Paralyzed Veterans of America nonprofit organization. “She reminded me that I was only going to get better and stronger, that it wasn’t like being diagnosed with a progressive disease.”
Vixay spent three months rehabilitating at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he learned of the sport from his recreational therapist. A few months after returning home to Oregon City, Vixay tried rugby for the first time.
“At that time, I was still in a power chair, so getting into a rugby chair and moving around under my own strength was liberating,” he told the Paralyzed Veterans of America. “I was instantly hooked.”
Paralyzed Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs co-present the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair multi-sport and rehabilitation event in the world. This year, the event took place at the Oregon Convention Center, with several other sites hosting various events July 4-9.
Vixay credited the VA for being his support system to get needed equipment, and the Wheelchair Games for giving him an outlet for competition and community involvement. A 2006 Oregon City High School graduate, he studied multi-media journalism at Clackamas Community College.
From its beginning in 1981 with 77 athletes participating in seven events, this year, the event included nearly 400 wheelchair athletes participating in 23 events, including archery, trout fishing, swimming and pickleball.
Participation in the games is open to veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, multiple sclerosis or other neurological conditions that require a wheelchair for athletic competition.
The games demonstrate the therapeutic value of sports and competition. As event presenters, Paralyzed Veterans and the VA are committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities and fostering better health through sports competition.
“One of the big misconceptions with people in wheelchairs and high-level injuries, like myself, is a lot of people feel like we just sit at home and don’t really do anything,” Vixay told the Clackamas Print. “Through sports and the Oscar Mike Foundation, we’re able to get out there in the community to show people that, hey, just because we are in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean we can’t surf, skydive and go hiking at the national parks.”
While past games have produced several national and world-class champions, the event also provides opportunities for newly injured Veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other athletes who use wheelchairs.
Since the games began in 1981, thousands of disabled veterans have enjoyed the health benefits of sports participation and have revitalized the spirit of competition within themselves.