Wikinews interviews Duncan Campbell, co-founder of wheelchair rugby
Friday, September 7, 2012
((Laura Hale)) You're Duncan Campbell, and you're the founder of...
- Duncan Campbell: One of the founders of wheelchair rugby.
((Laura Hale)) And you're from ,
- Duncan Campbell: Yes, I'm from Canada, eh! (laughter)
((Laura Hale)) ?
- Duncan Campbell: Winnipeg, .
((Laura Hale)) You cheer for — what's that NHL team?
- Duncan Campbell: I cheer for the Jets!
((Laura Hale)) What sort of Canadian are you?
- Duncan Campbell: A fan! (laughter)
((Laura Hale)) I don't know anything about ice hockey. I'm a fan.
((Hawkeye7)) Twenty five years ago...
- Duncan Campbell: Thirty five years ago!
((Laura Hale)) They said twenty five in the stadium...
- Duncan Campbell: I know better.
((Hawkeye7)) So it was 1977.
((Laura Hale)) You look very young.
- Duncan Campbell: Thank you. We won't get into how old I am.
((Hawkeye7)) So how did you invent the sport?
- Duncan Campbell: I've told this story so many times. It was a bit of a fluke in a way, but there were five of us. We were all quadriplegic, that were involved in sport, and at that time we had the Canadian games for the physically disabled. So we were all involved in sports like table tennis or racing or swimming. All individual sports. And the only team sport that was available at that time was basketball, . But as quadriplegics, with hand dysfunction, a bit of arm dysfunction, if we played, we rode the bench. We'd never get into the big games or anything like that. So we were actually going to lift weights one night, and the volunteer who helped us couldn't make it. So we went down to the gym and we started throwing things around, and we tried a few things, and we had a volleyball. We kind of thought: "Oh! This is not bad. This is a lot of fun." And we came up with the idea in a night. Within one night.
((Hawkeye7)) So all wheelchair rugby players are quadriplegics?
- Duncan Campbell: Yes. All wheelchair rugby players have to have a disability of some kind in all four limbs.
((Laura Hale)) When did the classification system for wheelchair rugby kick in?
- Duncan Campbell: It kicked in right away because there was already a classification system in place for wheelchair basketball. We knew basketball had a classification system, and we very consciously wanted to make that all people with disabilities who were quadriplegics got to play. So if you make a classification system where the people with the most disability are worth more on the floor, and you create a system where there are only so many points on the floor, then the people with more disability have to play. And what that does is create strategy. It creates a role.
((Hawkeye7)) Was that copied off wheelchair basketball?
- Duncan Campbell: To some degree, yes.
((Laura Hale)) I assume you're barracking for Canada. Have they had any issues? That made you
- Duncan Campbell: You know, I'm not going to... I can't get into that in a major way in that there's always classification issues. And if you ask someone from basketball, there's classification issues. If you ask someone from swimming... There's always classification issues. The classifiers have the worst job in the world, because nobody's ever satisfied with what they do. But they do the best they can. They're smart. They know what they're doing. If the system needs to change, the athletes will, in some way, encourage it to change.
((Laura Hale)) Do you think the countries that have better classifiers... as someone with an Australian perspective they're really good at classification, and don't get theirs overturned, whereas the Americans by comparison have had a number of classification challenges coming in to these games that they've lost. Do you think that having better classifiers makes a team better able to compete at an international level?
- Duncan Campbell: What it does is ensures that you practice the right way. Because you know the exact classifications of your players then you're going to lineups out there that are appropriate and fit the classification. If your classifications are wrong then you may train for six months with a lineup that becomes invalid when that classification. So you want to have good classifiers, and you want to have good classes.
((Laura Hale)) When you started in 1977, I've seen pictures of the early wheelchairs. I assume that you were playing in your day chair?
- Duncan Campbell: Yes, all the time. And we had no modifications. And day chairs at that time were folding chairs. They were Earjays or Stainless. That's all the brands there were. The biggest change in the game has been wheelchairs.
((Laura Hale)) When did you retire?
- Duncan Campbell: I never retired. Still play. I play locally. I play in the club level all the time.
((Laura Hale)) When did you get your first rugby wheelchair?
- Duncan Campbell: Jesus, that's hard for me to even think about. A long time ago. I would say maybe twenty years ago.
((Laura Hale)) Were you involved in creating a special chair, as Canadians were pushing the boundaries and creating the sport?
- Duncan Campbell: To a degree. I think everybody was. Because you wanted the chair that fit you. Because they are all super designed to an individual. Because it allows you to push better, allows you to turn better. Allows you to use your chair in better ways on the court. Like you've noticed that the defensive chairs are lower and longer. That's because the people that are usually in a defensive chair have a higher disability, which means they have less balance. So they sit lower, which means they can use their arms better, and longer so they can put screens out and set ticks for those high point players who are carrying the ball. It's very much strategic.
((Hawkeye7)) I'd noticed that in wheelchair basketball the low point player actually gets more court time...
- Duncan Campbell: ...because that allows the high point player to play. And its the same in this game. Although in this game there's two ways to go. You can go a high-low lineup, which is potentially two high point players and two very low point players, which is what Australia does right now with and the new kid . They have two high point players, and two 0.5 point players. It makes a very interesting scenario for, say, the US, who use four mid-point players. In that situation, all four players can carry the ball; in the Australian situation, usually only two of them can carry the ball.
((Laura Hale)) Because we know you are going soon, the all-important question: can Canada beat the Australians tonight?
- Duncan Campbell: Of course they are. (laughter)
((Laura Hale)) Because Australians love to gamble, what's your line on Canada?
- Duncan Campbell: It's not a big line! I'm not putting a big line on it! (laughter) I'd say it's probably 6–5.
((Hawkeye7)) Is your colour commentary for the Canadian broadcast?
- Duncan Campbell: That was for the . I did the – game this morning. I do the – game tomorrow at two. And then I'm doing the US– game on the last day.
((Laura Hale)) Are you happy with the level of coverage the Canadians are providing your sport?
- Duncan Campbell: No.
((Laura Hale)) Thank you for an honest answer.
- Duncan Campbell: Paralympic Sports TV is their own entity. They webcast, but they're not a Canadian entity. Our Canadian television is doing... can I swear?
((Laura Hale)) Yeah! Go ahead!
- Duncan Campbell: No! (laughter) They're only putting on an hour a day. A highlight package, which to me is...
((Hawkeye7)) It's better than the US.
- Duncan Campbell: Yes, I've heard it's better than the US. At the same time, it's crap. You have here [in Great Britain], they've got it on 18 hours a day, and it's got good viewership. When are we going to learn in North America that viewership is out there for it? How many times do we have to demonstrate it? We had the in two years ago, the , and we had crappy coverage there. There was an actual outburst demand to put the opening ceremonies on TV because they weren't going to do it. And they had to do it, because everybody complained. So they did it, but they only did it in , in our home province, where they were holding it. The closing ceremonies they broadcast nationally because the demand was so high. But they still haven't changed their attitudes.
((Laura Hale)) I have one last question: what did it mean for you when they had a Canadian flag bearer who was a wheelchair rugby player?
- Duncan Campbell: I recruited that guy. It was fantastic. I recruited him. Found him playing hockey. And that guy has put in so much time and effort into the game. He absolutely deserves it. No better player.
((Laura Hale)) Thank you!
((Hawkeye7)) Thank you! Much appreciated.