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Zion Redington

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Wheelchair Rugby's Team USA

Local athletes train at Lakeshore Foundation in preparation for this summer's 2024 Paralympics in Paris

Article by Loyd McIntosh

Photography by USA Wheelchair Rugby

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

It’s a Saturday morning in early May, and the gymnasium at Lakeshore Foundation is buzzing with activity. The music on the PA system is loud - very loud. At 9 a.m. on the dot, the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby team takes the floor to begin workouts. Before long, the team members are crashing into each other, dripping sweat, and breathing heavily as they prepare for this summer’s 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

If you’re looking for a teary-eyed story about triumph over tragedy and coping with adversity, look elsewhere. These aren’t disabled athletes; they’re athletes with disabilities, and they are bada**!

Two of the team’s athletes, Zion Redington and Clayton Brackett, live in the Birmingham area and will compete in their first Paralympics this summer, marking a significant milestone for each athlete.

Redington, 17, is the youngest member of the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby team. Born in China with ectrodactyly, a condition causing the absence or malformation of the hands and feet, Redington was adopted and lived for several years in Nashville before moving to Trussville to train at Lakeshore.

Despite being a quadruple amputee, Redington is quick, agile, and aggressive. Every play during this training session is designed to get him the ball. He’s also an absolute terror on defense, constantly crashing his chair into opposing players and trying to flip them over—a common occurrence in wheelchair rugby. 

"It’s a sport where we can hit other people with our chairs and have the potential to knock or flip them over–I find that very fun," says Redington with a hint of glee.

“He loves to hit and be aggressive,” says Joe Delagrave, Team USA Head Coach. Delagrave has watched Redington's progression since making the 2024 National Training Squad and believes he has the potential to be one of the sport's best players. 

Redington began playing wheelchair rugby at eight years old on adult club teams, which he hated. "I was eight years old, and I was playing with a bunch of people who could very well be my dad. To be completely honest, I was not the biggest fan of it,” says Redington. “Luckily, my mom was able to keep me in the sport until around age 13, and that's when I started loving it.” 

On the other end of the spectrum is Brackett, a wheelchair rugby veteran, and Irvine, California native. Now 31, Brackett will make his first appearance in the Paralympics this summer. Brackett suffered a spinal cord injury before he turned two years old. As he grew, he gravitated to wheelchair basketball, even earning a scholarship to the University of Illinois, but his disability affected his hands and limited him on the court. Thankfully, friend and current Paralympic teammate Chuck Aoki convinced Brackett to switch sports. The two had played wheelchair basketball against each other as kids. 

Brackett joined a team in St. Louis and quickly excelled at the sport. He eventually moved to Birmingham to pursue wheelchair rugby and finish a business management degree at UAB. He made his first national team in 2015 for the Parapan American Games in Toronto but was cut from the team ahead of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. 

Eight years later, Brackett is a member of the U.S. Paralympic team and is excited to represent his country. He thanks his wife, Hannah, and other family members for their support.

"It was a heartfelt moment when I discovered I made the team. I teared up a little bit," Brackett says. "It has not only been a goal of mine–I’ve had a lot of support from my wife and family. They've had to make sacrifices to support me.” 

Coach Delagrave, who played on teams with Brackett for several years in the 2010s, says he couldn’t be happier for Brackett, who deserves this opportunity on the world stage. “I love Clayton Brackett. He's a guy that's been in this program for a while, and he's been around the sport for over a decade now,” Delagrave says. “This is his first Paralympics, and I couldn't be prouder of him.”

  • 2024 USAWR Training Squad
  • Zion Redington
  • Clayton Brackett
  • Clayton Brackett and coach Joe Delagrave