The Daily Gamecock

Quad rugby player Jason Regier speaks for Creed, Diversity Week

Athlete speaks to Students

World-class athlete Jason Regier spoke to approximately 30 students on adversity and persistence Thursday night in the Callcott Social Sciences Center.

The lecture, sponsored by the Carolina Judicial Council and Empower, was one of several events celebrating Creed and Diversity Week.

Regier won his first world championship with the U.S. Quadriplegic "Quad" Rugby team in 2006. He won his first gold medal in 2008 at the Beijing Paralympic Games, and he is currently training for the 2012 London Paralympics.

Fifteen years ago, however, this tenacious gold medalist was struggling to lift his own toothbrush after a car accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Regier, a dedicated soccer player, had dreamed of going professional since middle school, but his entire life was changed in a split second on Sept. 22, 1996, when his Jeep slid off-road on a mountainous highway outside of Salt Lake City. Two days, two surgeries and two neck plates later, Regier woke up unable to move his limbs; his C6 and C7 vertebrae were shattered. Had the injury been inch higher, he would have been relying on a breathing tube.

"It was the toughest realization when I knew my life was changed forever," Regier said. "I kept thinking about everything I had lost: college, work, driving, soccer. It all hit me at once, and I became so depressed, I got to the point where I understood why people want to commit suicide."

Regier recalled his first small progressive step in his three-and-a-half months of therapy — brushing his teeth on his own. Two months later, he pushed himself in a wheelchair for the first time. That's around the time when Regier discovered Quad/Wheelchair Rugby, or "Murderball," as it was originally known.

Quad rugby is four-on-four on a basketball court with a volleyball. Though it is designed for quadriplegics, Regier described the game as "the most physical, fastest, hardest-hitting game there is." Players ram into each other at full force to steal the ball, occasionally knocking each other out of their chairs.

Regier first went out for the U.S. team in 1999, and after years of being cut from the team, he finally made it to the world competition in New Zealand, winning his first world championship in September 2006, the 10-year anniversary of his accident. Regier said quad rugby has given him and his teammates the ability to be themselves within their physical limitations.

"If there's anything I've learned, it's that people are who they are," he said. "My disability doesn't change me; I'm the same person I was before. People look at you differently, but that doesn't matter."

Regier emphasized to students the two most important words in his vocabulary: push forward. This, he said, is what got him from barely lifting his toothbrush to pushing himself five miles a day in his wheelchair for rugby training.

"Do what you can, where you are, with what you have," Regier said. "Sometimes, life is just that simple."

Fourth-year accounting and business student Madison Shepherd, said she believes Regier's message of "pushing forward" is important for students to hear, especially in compliance with Creed Week.

"College students have so much going on, and it can sometimes seem really overwhelming," Shepherd said. "Hearing [Regier's] story of how he's overcome so much really puts into perspective what others are going through outside our own world."


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