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Quad rugby aces on U.S. team

Tampa Generals quad rugby players Dave Gould and Joe Soares have been chosen to play on the favored United States all-star team in the world championships in England next month.

Tryouts for the U.S. team were held in May. The 12 finalists will attend a training camp in Boston at the end of July and then head to Aylesbury, England, to compete in the Britain Wheelchair Sports Federation Games world championships. Holland, Switzerland, Great Britain and Canada also will be in the competition, which is held every three years.

"The biggest dream I ever had was to wear USA on my chest and compete against other countries in this tournament," said Soares, who joined the Tampa Generals two years ago.

Quadriplegic rugby combines elements of soccer, hockey and rugby, and teams use specially designed sports wheelchairs to withstand the constant punishment of players colliding. It is played on a regulation basketball court by two teams of four players whose goal is to carry a volleyball over the other's end line.

Gould, of New Port Richey, suffered his injury in an Army intramural softball game in 1983 when he slid head-first into third base. He joined the Generals in March of 1989, two months after the team was formed.

Soares has been in a wheelchair most of his life and has been active in quad rugby since 1989 when he joined the Boston Pitbulls. The Tampa Generals won the U.S. Quad Rugby Association national tournament in April, making them the only team to win two years in a row. Soares has been named most valuable player in six tournaments over the past three years, and Gould, of New Port Richey, received the honor in a national tournament in January.

Each member of the all-star team must raise $3,000 for the trip. Soares and Gould are working together to raise funds and are asking for community support.

"I hope Tampa Bay would want its best athletes to go and return as world champions," Soares said. "This will be like living out a dream because we've come so far and worked so hard for it."

Area residents and businesses who want to support the players can send donations to 7301 Bridgeview Circle, 102, Tampa, FL 33634. For more information, call 889-8305.