A Phoenix native is going for the gold this summer.
Joe Jackson, a member of the Ability360 Phoenix Heat championship-winning wheelchair rugby team, was selected to join Team USA’s Wheelchair Rugby Paralympic team in Tokyo.
Jackson, who graduated from Hamilton High School in Chandler, was paralyzed from the chest down from an accident during a 2005 football game. Undeterred, he began playing wheelchair rugby for Ability360 — which offers programs to empower those with disabilities — in 2007 and trains at the organization’s fitness center.
“All of us at Ability360 are very proud of Joe,” Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center General Manager Gus LaZear said in a prepared statement. “We knew he’d put in the work and was at the top of his game, but there are a lot of really talented guys at his level, so we were crossing our fingers. We can’t wait for the matches to begin.”
Jackson, 31, a Maricopa resident with his wife Sarah who he met through Ability360, discovered he was chosen for the 12-man squad during a Zoom announcement last month. The event was hosted by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee based out of Colorado Springs.
Jackson was previously a member of the 2020 U.S. Paralympic squad that was trying out for the Tokyo Games, which were ultimately canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jackson’s name was the first called on the Zoom.
“It was super emotional,” Jackson said in a statement. “It was validating to have your skills recognized and to be able to go and compete for your country.”
The team will leave for Tokyo on Aug. 17 with the Games set to begin on Aug. 25. Team USA is ranked second in the world behind two-time defending gold medalists Team Australia in the eight-team field.
And he won’t be alone: Three players from Tucson, who are affiliated with the University of Arizona wheelchair rugby program, will be joining Jackson in Tokyo.
While his wife won’t be able to see him play in person because of restrictions on foreign spectators, Jackson is looking forward to the competition after a long delay.
“I think it’s going to be overwhelming when I first get into the arena and see everything set up for the Games,” he said. “Nerves will calm down once we start training and when the Games start, I’ll be nervous but it will be great to play against competition.”