Best Wheelchair Athlete

Clayton Braun

In July 2003 Clayton Braun nearly died on a Mississippi River sandbar after he dived headfirst into the water during a day of waterskiing. Three years later, confined to a wheelchair and with extraordinarily limited use of his arms and hands, Braun was something of a reluctant recruit to the area's quadriplegic rugby team, the St. Louis Rugby Rams. Slightly shy, supersweet and bashful upon introduction, the young twentysomething was not so sure this sport affectionately known as, um, "murderball" was for him. It wasn't long, though, before the Rams had a grip on Braun and wouldn't let go. Braun is now a balls-to-the-wall defenseman the team depends on for games home and away. (His cheering squad is about three times the size of the team roster!) Braun is also gaining national exposure. In 2007 he was asked to try out for the U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby squad. Though Braun failed to make the cut that year, he rolled back onto the court for another tryout in late 2008 and is now one of eighteen members of the 2009 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team, representing the nation in competitions stateside and abroad.

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