After not making the US wheelchair rugby team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Joe Delagrave is back and ready to prove his value at August’s World Championships in Sydney, Australia.
The co-captain has worked tirelessly since missing out on the USA’s silver medal win from Rio and was rewarded with a spot on the team for the 2018 Worlds, coming 5-10 August.
“It wasn’t easy watching the guys play from afar that whole year,” Delagrave admitted.
“I’ve always had the confidence in my game, so my training is no different than previous years.
“The biggest component for me was accepting the coaching decision to not bring me to Rio and continue on towards my goal of World Championship and Paralympic gold.
“I think that year taught me a lot about self-validation, leadership skills without holding the captain’s title, and figuring out if I still wanted to be on the team despite what happened.
“Plain and simple, I was devastated to not be selected for the Rio squad and then seeing them lose without being able to do anything about it was hard to handle.”
Having also missed out on the 2016 Canada Cup prior to Rio 2016, Delagrave is elated to have won the 2018 edition in June.
“It was great to be back and help lead the team to victory,” he said of the team’s gold medal 56-53 win over Japan.
“More importantly, we were able to get new guys valuable playing time against the world’s top teams.
“We have a deep bench this year which should set us up nicely for Worlds.”
The USA claimed bronze at the 2014 Worlds, but have not won gold at a major tournament since 2010. Delagrave was part of the world title winning team eight years ago and feels his team must not get complacent despite being high on confidence.
“We’ve been in this spot before, winning at the Canada Cup and then losing when it matters most,” he said.
“We all understand the teams at Worlds will be ready to go, and we are staying hungry and not taking any team lightly.
“[Reigning Paralympic champion] Australia is the obvious choice for teams to beat, they have won when it matters most in 2012, 2014, and 2016.
“If anyone wants to win it all this year, they have to take down Australia.”
The USA were drawn in Pool B alongside Canada, Great Britain, France, Colombia and Poland while Pool A consists of Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden.