'Murderball' not a sport for the meek

Friday, August 24, 2012

When Bob Lujano contracted a rare, life-threatening form of meningitis at age nine, there were moments it didn’t seem he’d have a future. The disease cost him all four limbs. Now a bronze medal Paralympic athlete in wheelchair rugby—a.k.a. murderball—and one of the stars of an Academy Award-winning documentary of the same name, Lujano spoke to HME News about how HME and sports changed his life.

HME News: How did you get into wheelchair rugby?

Bob Lujano: I was living in Atlanta in 1994, working on a committee to get ready for the 1996 Paralympics Games, and I got introduced to wheelchair rugby. I loved it. I had played wheelchair basketball, but you really need hands to do well there. All you need for rugby is good upper-body function. The objective is to push your wheelchair as fast as you can and slam into people. It’s not a sport for the meek. 

HME: How has wheelchair rugby changed your life?

Lujano: It’s gone beyond just a competitive sport. I never thought that I would get to go to New Zealand, Sweden or Athens, Greece. I’ve gotten more out of the sport than I’d ever imagined. There were 300 athletes on the U.S. Paralympic team in ’04 and I was one of 88 who took home medals. I’m thankful that I worked that hard for that long and it paid off. 

HME: You were one of the stars of the 2005 documentary “Murderball,” which won Sundance Film Festival awards and was nominated for an Academy Award. Did it accomplish what you wanted it to?

Lujano: The objective was to educate a generation. To let people know that, yes, I have a disability, but I’m not sitting at home waiting for a pot of gold to fall out of the sky. It’s about us being independent people. The film portrayed me as a blue-collar guy, working 40 hours a week, going to church, participating in the community. And that’s who I am.