Angelo Mongiovi

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Angelo Mongiovi (born June 29, 1952) is a former wheelchair track, basketball, and rugby competitor who was inducted into the United States Quad Rugby Association(USQRA) Hall of Fame in 2002.

Childhood[edit]

Angelo Mongiovi was born at St. Michael's Hospital in Newark, NJ to Charles and Immaculata Mongiovi. He is the eldest of six children Margret, Sebastina, Emerlinda, Anthony and Charles. At the age of two years Mongiovi was hospitalized for poliomyelitis, or polio. This was three months prior to the world release of the polio vaccine created by Jonas Salk in 1952 and released in 1955. Within a few short weeks the virus had run its course leaving him with limited use of his legs and the upper part of his left arm. The next years of his life, between three and six years, were spent in and out of various hospitals where he relearned how to walk and live life. Here, Mongiovi was taught how to use crutches and was made to wear a brace around his chest and his legs to assist in straightening his spine and support his legs.

Even from an early age Mongiovi showed a natural talent for athletics where he could be seen playing sports such as wiffle ball and football with neighborhood children.

School[edit]

When Mongiovi reached the age where he should begin his schooling, he started at Branch Brook School in Newark, NJ for the physically and mentally handicapped. At the time Branch Brook was mainly a school for the physically disabled. He attended class here from Kindergarten through 6th grade where he was introduced to handicapped speakers and role models such as Helen Keller. From here he moved from Newark to Clark, NJ where he began attending Charles H. Brewer Middle School. Unlike Branch Brook School, Mongiovi was now surrounded by, and attending classes with, able bodied children. It was an adventure both physically and practically for him where he spent a majority of his first days falling on his butt while juggling books. Mongiovi quickly learned that Branch Brook, while having been able to accommodate for his physical needs, left him behind some of his peers as far as academics. At Charles H. Brewer Middle School, Mongiovi joined his school's baseball team which would prove to follow him through all his years of schooling. It was also here, that he could be seen making his first basket on the court with a crutch in one hand and a ball in the other. Before the end of his eighth grade year in Clark, he was visited by a recruiter for a new regional high school being built in Kenilworth, NJ to accommodate the physically handicapped while allowing them to attend classes with the able bodied. Against his will Mongiovi was forced to attend, at the time, David Brearley Regional High School, DBRHS.

DBRHS was designed to provide the very first high school disabled friendly program in the area. Mongiovi eventually caught up with his peers as far as academics and during his senior year took the SATs and achieved the highest score in mathematics in the school. Throughout his four years here, he also was a member of the school's varsity baseball team where he was presented with their very first gold letter during his senior year. Following his high school years, he attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, NJIT, formally known as Newark College of Engineering, or NCE. He graduated from here with a Bachelor's of Engineering in Computer Science in 1974 and went on to work for AT&T then the Computer Sciences Corporation, CSC following and presently.

Introduction to Wheelchair Sports[edit]

During his senior year of college, 1973, Mongiovi was working late on a school project and eating in the campus cafeteria when he was approached by Jimmy Marzanno, a double amputee, visiting NCE. Marzanno questioned him on whether or not he had ever heard of wheelchair sports and upon hearing that he never had invited Mongiovi to check out a wheelchair basketball practice at Montclair State University. So on October 5, 1973, Angelo Mongiovi, while being accompanied by his friend, who was also disabled, Thomas McDonald, was first exposed to the world of wheelchair sports.
After borrowing a wheelchair from a friend, the two traveled and arrived with cocky attitudes and high expectations of showing up all the athletes. They were quickly put in their place and both later went on to achieve high honors in their sports of choice. Angelo Mongiovi in rugby, basketball and track, and Thomas McDonald in weight lifting. At this practice Mongiovi was approached by Michael Lione, a player for the NJ Blue Devils Wheelchair Basketball Team and former classmate at the Branch Brook School, and was invited to tryout for the team.

Basketball[edit]

Although he had very little experience at maneuvering a wheelchair, it was seen very early in his career that Mongiovi possessed a natural talent for wheelchair sports. After seeing his speed on the court, he was approached by a woman recruiting for the wheelchair track team to come and try out and was also invited event later to try out for a wheelchair rugby team, which would prove to be his true calling.
Mongiovi was so good, fact, that in 1989 he was chosen to represent the United States in the Stoke Mandeville Games, an international wheelchair sports competition. The United States team came out in second place after losing to their Canadian rivals.

Track and Field[edit]

During his career competing nationally and internationally in wheelchair track and field competitions, Mongiovi participated in many events including the 100 yard dash, 220 and 440 yard, 200 meter, and the slalom races. In 1985, he competed in a national competition racing in the 200 meter dash and setting the national record for fastest time in this race. He held this record for a period of time following the race. Upon winning this race and setting his record, Mongiovi was invited to represent the United States once again in the Stoke Mandeville Games, this time for track, where he competed on a track that was once shared with "the fastest man alive," Carl Lewis. He went on to achieve silver and bronze medals in all of his races at this competition. In 1990, Mongiovi was presented with a national track and field award. He was named the most outstanding slalom competitor overall beating out one of the best slalom players in the country and one of his role models, Randy Snow.

Rugby[edit]

Mongiovi was introduced to wheelchair rugby at the 1989 Stoke Mandeville Games. It was not until the end of the season in 1991, however, that he was recruited by Angelo Nicosia, an EPVA Coach, and Peter Zarba[1] to come out and play. He tried out and played his first season between 1991 and 1992 at 39 years of age. It was evident even at the beginning out on the court that he possessed a natural talent, which may have been contributed to by his previous wheelchair athletic experience, and true skill in this sport as he began winning awards left and right and gained sponsorship from Sunrise Medical Quickie during his first season of play. Mongiovi was even referred to at one time by his peers as being the best rugby player in the world. In 1992, his rugby team, the New York Strykers,[1] competed in the national championships in San Jose, CA where they achieved sixth place and, despite this, Mongiovi was named the Most Valuable Player during his rookie season for the United States.
In 1994, he was asked for the third time to represent the United States in the Stoke Mandeville Games but this time for rugby. They went on to win the gold medal against Great Britain in the championship game. His 1995 season was his last year of international competition in wheelchair sports. Mongiovi was selected to represent the United States in the first ever Wheelchair Rugby World Championship in Notwil, Switzerland. He was selected by his teammates as one of the co-captains of their US team and went on to win the world championship against Canada and earn the first ever wheelchair rugby international gold medal. In 1996, Mongiovi tried out for Paralympic Rugby Team and was selected as an alternate. He retired from quad sports in 2000.

Family[edit]

Mongiovi married his first wife, Susan McDonald, in June 1977. They had two children together, Zachary Charles Mongiovi (October 2, 1986) and Jessica Louise Mongiovi (January 31, 1991). He wed his second wife, Fiona De Louw, in June 1998. They had two children as well Alyssa Mongiovi (2000) and Jason Mongiovi (2003).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Angelo Mongiovi". USQRA. Retrieved 13 November 2011.