By Christian Guerithault
Richard Alcaraz, a badminton player from Peoria, AZ, has been a member at Ability360 for over two years.
Alcaraz lost his leg in a motorcycle accident.
“I’m a Marine veteran and I went to combat three times and I came out fine,” Alcaraz said. “But I was in a motorcycle accident five years ago and my foot was torn off.”
“I went through two years of operations and not being able to walk,” Alcaraz said. “Then after two years I selected to get an amputation done, which has been almost three years now.”
Alcaraz was in the Marines for six years, from 1990-1996.
“I was in Desert Storm and Somalia twice,” Alcaraz said. “Then I went back to help train the Kuwait army.”
Alcaraz’ badminton coach, Guy Chadwick of the Arizona Badminton Center in Mesa, AZ, has been coaching badminton for nearly 40 years.
“Richard is fantastic to work with,” Chadwick said. “He is extremely focused, athletic, has excellent hand-eye coordination, is serious when training and is a very hard worker.”
Alcaraz has his eyes set on domestic competitions, as well as international ones.
“I’ve played in some tournaments here,” Alcaraz said. “Steve Kearney is the USA Paralympic Badminton Director and he’s setting me up for some international tournaments coming up in Peru among other countries.”
Alcaraz has been playing badminton for about nine months; Chadwick said he is improving at a rapid rate.
“He is progressing much faster than the average player starting from scratch,” Chadwick said. “He is willing to put in the repetition that any sport requires. I couldn’t be more pleased with his skill development at this point and have no reason to expect that he will not continue to improve rapidly.”
Alcaraz said that people tend to forget about badminton.
“A lot of people play tennis or even racquetball and they forget about badminton,” Alcaraz said. “The Paralympics are going to be having badminton for the first time in Tokyo in 2020. It is an Olympic sport, but this is the first time the Paralympics are going to have it.”
Alcaraz plays many sports other than badminton.
“I play for the Arizona Coyotes Sled Hockey Team, the Ability360 Lacrosse team, I run 5K’s in sprint triathlon,” Alcaraz said. “I also practice with Ability360’s wheelchair basketball team.”
Alcaraz plays so many different sports because he said he can inspire other people with disabilities to try different sports.
“I try to do as much as I can, that way I can share my experience with other people,” Alcaraz said. “A lot of people say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t’ without even trying. It’s a whole different world that you don’t see until you’re in it.”
He also said that the offseason for sports makes it difficult to stay busy if you only play one sport.
“Right now hockey is in it’s off season, so if I was only playing hockey then I wouldn’t be doing anything right now,” Alcaraz said. “I meet more people by playing multiple sports and I can talk more about what I’ve tried.”
Alcaraz has also done monoskiing and fell in love with it.
“I did skiing and the VA is going to try to help me get a monoski so I can take it to the next level,” he said. “That type of equipment is custom. Nobody rents it at any of the resorts and if there are it’s pretty rare. A lot of the time you have to get your own equipment.”
Alcaraz is ultimately gearing up to represent the USA at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 and also wants to participate in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
“My goal is to make the Summer Paralympics in 2020 (for badminton) and the Winter Paralympics in 2018 (for monoskiing),” Alcaraz said.