Among the sporting events arriving this summer amid the general hoopla of the World's Fair centennial celebration is one that's never seen St. Louis: the 24th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games. This week more than 500 wheelchair athletes (including the 37-member St. Louis team) will compete for medals in sixteen events of Olympian scale, ranging from swimming and weightlifting to trap shooting and power soccer.
Wheelchair-basketball leagues were the first sports teams formed by paralyzed veterans after World War II, and the popularity of the sport led to the formation of other wheelchair leagues, which led to the formation of the National Games in 1981. The games are co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, who treat the 40,000 veterans who have sustained spinal-cord injuries. This is the world's largest wheelchair-sports event, and it grows with each generation; today, Korean War veterans compete alongside veterans of Iraq.
The four-day competition runs from Tuesday, June 15, through Saturday, June 19, and the majority of the events will be held at America's Center downtown (701 Convention Center Plaza), with bowling at St. Clair Lanes (5950 Old Collinsville Road, Fairview Heights, Illinois) and Friday's track-and-field events at East St. Louis High School (4901 State Street, East St. Louis, Illinois). Friday, June 18, is also "Kids' Day at the Games," a program running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that organizers hope will "help introduce the wonderful world of adaptive sports" to children with physical disabilities. This is more than just a chance to inspire kids for whom athleticism seems impossible; it is also a chance for local wheelchair-basketball clubs to learn from some of the top players in that and a plentitude of other sports.
The thing to see, though, is the racing: The veterans in the relays and hand-cycling use the souped-up, ground-hugging three-wheel racing chairs you saw late on ESPN2 or (we think) in a Mountain Dew commercial. The arm strength on display is Herculean. The strength of will is monumental.
For a complete schedule of the free events, visit www.wheelchairgames.org or call 314-894-6602. -- Mark Dischinger
Here's Mud in Your Eye
It's always been a bit of a head-scratcher as to why tons of mud are carted into arenas for monster-truck rallies. Maybe it's derived from the Roman practice of flooding the basement of the Colosseum so dudes could skewer alligators with tridents. What the hell are people thinking? Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to hose down a big field and haul in some bleachers?
Well, that's kinda what they do at a mud bog. People race their (often homemade) four-by-fours through chest-deep, naturally occurring mud, and everybody has a stinkin' filthy time. Interested? Head out to Marthasville, Missouri (call 636-332-1880 or check www.mmor.com for directions), for their annual Mud Bog. Tickets are $5 to $9, and the muddin' starts at noon. -- Guy Gray
For all the Germans living in St. Louis, there seems to be a shortage of Deutsch stuff. Sure, there's Schneithorst's, Al Smith's Feasting Fox and some occasional volksmarching, but is that enough? Grant's Farm (10501 Gravois Road; 314-843-1700 or www.grantsfarm.com) tries to make up the difference with something called the Bauernhof, where you can eat Bavarian food and look at old carriages (some are German). Plus, in case you forgot, Grant's Farm has Anheuser-Busch products, the Budweiser Clydesdale Stables (complete with horses), animal shows and a deer-park tram. Fine, the last three aren't really German, but they're fun for both adults and kids. So pile the brats -- er, children -- in the Volkswagen and drive south any day but Monday. Admission's free, but parking's $6. -- Alison Sieloff
Makin' a Splash
The Olympic diving trials are coming, the Olympic diving trials are coming. You've heard the rumors, and you're wondering -- are they true? Yes, there will be Olympic hopefuls poised on springboards several meters in the air, preparing to plunge into the water below. No, there won't be sharks in the dive tank. Yes, the St. Peters Rec-Plex (5200 Mexico Road; www.divingtrials.com) is hosting the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Diving competition, which began on Monday, June 7, and continues through Sunday, June 13. Yes, individual or all-session tickets are still available at MetroTix (314-534-1111) and cost from $5 to $130. Finally, no, Rodney Dangerfield won't be performing the "triple lindy." -- Amy Helms