Mar 29, 2016

This month’s inspiring female role model in sport is Team BC wheelchair rugby athlete Jessica Kruger. Read on to learn more about how she has overcome hurdles throughout her journey in sport.

Name: Jessica Kruger
Sport:  Wheelchair Rugby
Hometown: Coquitlam

Local BC athlete shares the thrill of wheelchair rugby

The thought of wheelchairs crashing into each other, creating deafening sounds, may seem daunting for many of us. For Team BC wheelchair rugby athlete Jessica Kruger, it’s the complete opposite.

Originally known as murderball, the full contact sport of wheelchair rugby is renowned for its fast and aggressive nature. But these elements of the game are also what motivate Jessica to play.   

“It’s a bit out of character, as I didn’t play any contact sports before. But it’s the most quadriplegic-friendly sport, and was designed by sport quads in Winnipeg. I definitely love the competitiveness and aggressiveness of the sport. It helps with any sort of anger you have going on.”

In addition to the sport itself, the wheelchair rugby community is a big motivator for Jessica’s involvement.

“There’s just an amazing community involved. You keep coming back for the people even if you don’t like the sport.”

Growing up on a sailboat encouraged Jessica’s enthusiasm for physical activity. With the sea as her backyard, Jessica participated in many kinds of sports and various physical activities while travelling the world.

After settling back on land with her family at the age of 10, she was eager to hit the ground and become more involved in sports. Jessica became invested in basketball, volleyball, softball, cheerleading, and gymnastics during her teenage years. Even though a terrible accident caused her to become quadriplegic, Jessica persevered on her journey through sport.

“While undergoing rehab after the accident, the recreational therapist introduced me to wheelchair rugby. I tried it out at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, and went to my first practice in Vancouver shortly afterwards. A couple of the guys on the team encouraged me to keep coming out.”

Jessica KrugerFueled by her love for the sport and community, Jessica constantly challenged herself to keep playing and become better at the game. Her pathway to the provincial level was a natural progression paved by Duncan Campbell, one of the inventors of the sport. Convinced that Jessica had competitive potential, he constantly pushed her to work harder.

Duncan’s foresight proved to be on point, as Jessica has been a part of the BC wheelchair rugby team for multiple years now. She’s also the only female on the BC team, mirroring her role model Miranda Biletski–currently the only female on the Canadian national team.

Although surrounded by a male-dominated environment, Jessica is treated as an equal. Over the years, her male teammates have realized that she doesn’t expect to be taken lightly. Jessica acknowledges that although physical discrepancies can sometimes be a challenge, the sport is taking significant steps to mitigate gaps.

“There’s a classification in rugby based on how much physical function you have. Women get a 0.5 deduction off their classification for being female, which helps to level the playing field.”

Having just played in the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament, Jessica is keeping her skills sharp and training five days a week. She has high hopes to make the wheelchair rugby national team, and to one day compete in the Paralympics.

Her advice:

“Go for it! There’s no loss in trying something. The only things we regret are the things we don’t go for. Allow yourself the opportunity to pursue it, even if it seems impossible or even if it seems unlikely. Everybody owes it to themselves to at least try and see where it will take them.”


The Women in Sport Spotlight is a monthly series featuring inspirational female athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers, and leaders in British Columbia. Visit our Newsroom and follow us on Twitter or Facebook at @viaSportBC to find the latest edition