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Reprinted from SNS July 2017

Power soccer's biggest championship finally kicks off

After more than five years, Jordan Dickey and Team USA can finally defend their back-to-back Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) World Cup titles.

It only took two years longer than expected. But how sweet it could be, especially since they’ll be playing the World Cup in the United States for the first time in the tournament’s history this month.

“It’s hard to explain hearing the national anthem played for the first time. It just gives you chills,” says Dickey, who played on Team USA in the 2011 FIPFA World Cup in Paris. “Just getting to represent my country at an elite level of competition, the freedom of mind I didn’t really expect to happen when I was a little kid because of my disability. But power soccer has given me this opportunity. It’s just an athlete’s dream.”

Change In Chairs


That dream kicks off July 5 at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.  

Ten countries will compete in the FIPFA World Cup, featuring the two-time defending champion United States with Denmark, Japan, Argentina and Uruguay in Group A. England, Ireland, France, Canada and Australia are in Group B. Pool play runs July 5–7, quarterfinals take place July 8 and the final is set for 3 p.m. EDT July 9.

Team USA defeated England 3-0 in the 2011 championship in Paris and knocked off France 2-1 in sudden death triple overtime in 2007 in Japan. 

There’s one major difference from previous championships, though: Everyone will be using the same power wheelchairs instead of using whatever sports wheelchair the athlete had available. Strike Force introduced the first power soccer wheelchair in 2012. It’s designed with a low center of gravity, a wide wheelbase, a 6.2-miles-per-hour speed limit and a steel frame, increasing wheelchair athletes’ agility and spin kick power. 

Dickey acknowledged with everyone having the same chair, it’s completely changed the sport. Before, power soccer relied on both skill level and how an athlete’s chair performed in action. Athletes could have the same skill level, but they could get outplayed by another person just because one’s chair performed or functioned better. Now, it’s an even playing field. 

“So it’s really a cool experience. The physical ability of a chair is not impeding people’s ability. It’s all about skill now, really. It’s really exciting to see,” says Dickey, a Pendleton, Ind., resident, who was born with distal spinal muscular atrophy. “I’d say anticipation and reading angles really is what can set players apart. The ball moves a lot quicker, so you have to think a lot quicker. So now that everyone has the same equipment, it’s just outsmarting your opponent. The more competition, the more things you see, you get that experience and get a higher on-court IQ. I’d say, in soccer, IQ is really what separates a good player from an elite player.”

Team USA member Natalie Russo agrees. The 28-year-old, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 18 months old, acknowledges the game is much faster with the Strike Force chairs. 

“Now you can just see how quickly athletes are coming up with these decisions and reacting to players, versus having to slow the game down because the chair isn’t acting the way they need it to,” Russo says. “It’s taken it to a whole new level.”

For more information, including schedules and broadcast time, visit powersoccerteamusa.net

 

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