As the world gears up for the start of the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games, UT Austin alumnus Jeff Butler won’t just be watching team USA – he’s preparing to be in it. He is one of the talented athletes who is vying for a spot on the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby Team.
Introduced to Wheelchair Rugby at age 15 by a family friend, who referees the sport, Butler was instantly hooked. With the gold medal in his sights, he is training hard throughout the week, eating a strict diet and practicing with his Austin-based club, the Texas Stampede.
Despite some disappointment from the results of last fall’s World Wheelchair Rugby Championship in London, where Team USA lost to Canada 54-50 and claimed the silver medal, Butler has vowed to train even longer and harder for the summer Paralympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Team USA has assembled 15 practice team members, while 12 team members will travel to Rio to compete in the sport, which is widely known as “murderball” due to its high intensity and rough nature.
“I enjoy the physicality of rugby, as well as the strategy involved,” Butler says. “When you’re on the court, it’s a lightning-fast chess match.”
After fulfilling his lifelong dream of competing in the Paralympics, Butler plans to continue playing Rugby with the Texas Stampede and put his MIS degree (’14) to work by building a startup company in Austin. But for now, he is focusing on earning his spot at the top of the podium.