Lakewood Paralympian heads to Tokyo Games

Native son thinks gold is within reach

Bob Wooley
Posted 8/11/21

Adam Scaturro will soon be on his way to compete in the third Paralympic Games of a storied athletic career. At 42, he’s been around long enough to get a feel for these things, and despite the …

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Lakewood Paralympian heads to Tokyo Games

Native son thinks gold is within reach


Adam Scaturro will soon be on his way to compete in the third Paralympic Games of a storied athletic career.

At 42, he’s been around long enough to get a feel for these things, and despite the year-long delay and uncertainty created by the pandemic, he thinks his U.S.A. Wheelchair Rugby (USAWR) team is on the verge of something big. 

MORE: Tokyo 2021 Wheelchair Rugby USA vs. New Zealand prelims recap

In 2012’s London Games, his team took home the bronze. Four years later, in Rio de Janeiro, they came even closer to a championship, losing the final match in double overtime to come home with the silver medal.

This time, Scaturro thinks, the pieces will finally fall into place.

Having spent almost all of his years in Lakewood, Scaturro has close ties to the community he still calls home. He attended Slater and South Lakewood Elementary Schools, Creighton Jr. High and Lakewood High School where he graduated in 1997.

Athletic from a young age, Scaturro played football and baseball during his freshman and sophomore years and football during his junior year.

“And right after that, on December 14 is when I had my accident, on the wrestling mats,” he said. “Not actually wrestling — just goofing around on the wrestling mats.”

A friend from the wrestling team unexpectedly flipped Scaturro to the mat. The impact dislocated his neck. He’s been a permanent quadriplegic ever since.

Twelve days after the accident, he found himself at Craig Hospital where he would spend the next 10 weeks learning to face the physical challenges of a new and vastly different reality.

During his stay at Craig, his teachers from Lakewood High School did everything they could to keep him caught up with his work. One teacher videotaped her classes for him to watch. His Spanish teacher came to the hospital to help him do his lessons. 

With their help, Scaturro made it through his junior year. He was supposed to start his senior year at Lakewood, but at that time, the school wasn’t wheelchair accessible. A plan to have him attend Bear Creek High School was briefly floated, but Scaturro says Lakewood’s Principal insisted that improvements needed to be made, to allow Scaturro to attend his senior year there.

A couple of semesters at Colorado State University followed, but the events of the previous two years were beginning to take a toll. 

“I wasn’t quite at the stage where I was fully independent at that point,” Scaturro sad. “I was still struggling emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

A move back home to his mother’s house gave him the time he needed to work through those issues and find his way. But it was wheelchair rugby that finally brought him true independence.

“Just getting into that group of guys who all had the same disabilities and injuries I had, showed me that there was a whole life out there,” he said. “Rugby confirmed the idea that I could do anything I put my mind to.”

Scaturro said in some ways, doctors and others he’d been surrounded by after his accident, had been preparing him for all of the things he wouldn’t be able to do. But seeing the accomplishments of wheelchair rugby players made him realize he could be just as successful as they were.

One thing doctors prepared him for early on, was the likelihood he wouldn’t be a father. His son Sebastian now plays football for Lakewood High School. They told him traveling would be very difficult. But he’s traveled the world playing wheelchair rugby. In fact, the greater the challenge, the more Scaturro faces it head-on. 

Nature vs. nurture

The drive to compete and face seemingly insurmountable challenges is something Scaturro says he had even before his injury. One of the things he’d always wanted to do was climb Mt. Everest, or at least make it to basecamp. 

It was a goal that was always near and dear because his father was renowned geophysicist, adventurer and expedition leader, Pasquale Scaturro. The elder Scaturro has made three expeditions to Everest, summiting on his second attempt in 1998. He was also the first person in recorded history to raft down the entirety of the Nile river, beginning at the Blue Nile’s source in the Ethiopian highlands and ending at the Mediterranean Sea, a journey of almost 3,500 miles. 

By anyone’s standards, those are tough shoes to fill. But Scaturro says his own adventurous spirit didn’t come from a place of wanting to equal his father’s feats. In some ways, he said, it was a matter of wanting to make his father proud.

The first time he tried out for the USAWR team, Scaturro was cut on the first day of try-outs. That was in 2002. Undaunted, he tried out again in 2007 for the 2008 Beijing Games. He made it further in the process, but again was cut. In 2009 he tried out for a third time — after nearly a decade playing the sport — and was accepted onto the team.

He’s also competed in two Parapan Games, the PanAm Games for physically challenged people, and two World Championships.

Next stop, Tokyo

Actually, Scaturro’s next stop is Lakeshore Alabama, where the USAWR training center is. He said the team will be sequestered there for 10 days prior to making the flight to Tokyo, August 17. The Paralympic Games start Aug. 24.

From there, if all goes well, Scaturro will be making his way back to Lakewood, a city he loves and is grateful to for always being in his corner — and hopefully there will be a gold medal around his neck when he arrives.


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