Brad Mikkelsen - 1.0 - 1998
Classification: 1.0 Player
Jersey Number: 1
Hall of Fame Induction: 1999 (1st inductee)
Home: Fort Collins, Colorado
Playing Career: 1978-present
Teams: North Dakota Wallbangers (1978-93), Denver Harlequins (1993-present), TIRR (Houston) Hurricanes (1999)
Biography: It's hard to imagine where Wheelchair Rugby would be if it weren't for the efforts of Brad Mikkelsen. After being introduced to the sport at an Athletics event in Marshall, MN 1977, by Canadian players, Brad bridged the development of the sport to the United States. As a true pioneer of the sport, Brad was the driving force in the formation of the United States Quad Rugby Association. The first National Tournament, which featured 6 quickly formed teams, was convened in Grand Forks, North Dakota to decide the first National Champion. That cold weekend in North Dakota produced the name of Quad Rugby, which Brad proposed for the double meaning of quad for 4 on 4 play and quadriplegic. While Canada changed their name to Wheelchair Rugby, much of the World recognized the US's name, and even today it is referred to as Wheelchair Rugby or Quad Rugby. Brad was elected or volunteered as the Associations first Commissioner.
As a class 1.0 player, Brad was second only to Dominic Clemas of Minnesota for the first three years of the League. After the new classification was implemented in 1991, Clemas went to a higher-class making Brad king of the 1.0's earning 5 best of class awards at Nationals. He was the brain trust behind his North Dakota squad, keeping them in the association despite the isolation of North Dakota. As Commissioner, he promoted the game and was called upon by many upstart teams looking to advance their program. He was always available to the sport and instrumental in the fast growth the sport enjoyed in the early to mid-nineties. He set an example with the Grand Forks team by proving they could compete despite the low quad population and cold weather climates. His team was the first to utilize International players to supplement their program keeping the charter member in the USQRA.
Brad played wheelchair basketball and competed in track before he found rugby, and helped bring it to its current prominence in the US. In a tournament game between Mikkelson's Wallbangers and Quadzilla in 1989, Brad shielded standout 3.5 Brian Hanson from a loose ball while one of Mikkelson's teammates came from clear across the court to pick up the ball. In response to heady plays like that Hanson said, "He's just one of the smartest players on the court - period!"
As a player he made the first National team that competed in the 1990 Stoke Mandeville games, winning Gold. He would duplicate that feat in 1993. He also made the first World Championship team that won Gold in Notwil, Switzerland. With dwindling numbers in North Dakota, he relocated to Denver Colorado in 1994 and assisted in the formation of the Colorado Highlanders. He continued his role in developing the sport through PVA clinics which helped spawn several new teams. Under his reign as USQRA Commissioner (1988-1999), the number of teams playing hit 50. The expansion also meant more post season tournaments, which made a lot of work off the court for his role as Commissioner. Hall of Fame Coach Terry Vinyard explained "His assistance when we first began to play in Tampa was invaluable and inspired me to help develop other teams in the league down the road"
Since stepping down as Commissioner in 1999, Mikkelson's involvement in rugby and the disabled community has not curtailed. He currently serves as President of The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF), Chairman of USQRA Hall of Fame, Member of USQRA Technical Committee and Member of USQRA Rules Committee. Additionally, Brad serves as a member of The Board of Directors of Colorado Sports for the Physically Challenged and a Camp Counselor for youths with physical disabilities.
Over the past four decades Brad Mikkelson's continued involvement and excellence in Quad Rugby is unparalleled. He has succeeded at the highest level in every way. Those players, coaches, referees, classifiers and others who have been touched by this incredible sport have pioneers like Brad to thank for helping to bring Murderball from Canada, and building and sustaining its prominence in wheelchair sports history. He still plays for the Denver team (now the Harlequins) and has played more seasons and has served on the USQRA board longer than any other member of the United States Quad Rugby Association.