CEDAR RAPIDS — One fun activity led a Cedar Rapids youth to an international team.
Xavier freshman Ollie Ruffalo is on Team USA for paintball and will be traveling to Amsterdam for a tournament in the fall. In order for Ruffalo to get on this team, he had to go through a lot of conditioning and qualifying competition.
“There was a paintball combine in Florida (recently) where pros put over 90 people through a series of drills and based on how you scored, would lead to another round,” Ruffalo said. “After, there were two tournaments and your placement would determine if you made the team.”
Ruffalo’s passion for paintball started at the age of 9, with the help from his father, Paul Ruffalo.
“My dad and I went to a little paintball field in Shellsburg just for fun and we got hooked,” Ollie said. “We went back every weekend and found out there was a tournament side of paintball and we started playing tournaments.”
Throughout Ollie and Paul’s time at Shellsburg, they have made many memories.
“The day he shot me square in the forehead over a bunker from about 20 feet was one memory,” Paul said.
Ollie has gone from a beginner to an international contender. But, before going to Amsterdam in September, he has other things he has to accomplish.
“Before Amsterdam, there are going to be practices leading up to the tournament,” Ollie said.
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It is hard for Ollie to choose one thing he enjoys the most about paintball, but going to Amsterdam is at the top of his list.
“I am most excited to be with my new teammates and to travel doing what I love,” Ollie said.
Paintball is a very real sport to Ollie, and it requires great physical condition and mental awareness.
“Words cannot express how proud and impressed I am,” Paul said. “He has gone from a somewhat squeamish 9-year-old player to a dominant force on the field. Perhaps most impressive is he was able to qualify against other players who have the privilege of living in warm climates with practice facilities nearly year-round.”
Ollie’s effort has not gone unnoticed by his father.
“Watching him grow, I’m constantly worried that our locale is holding him back,” Paul said. “He has shouldered that burden and qualified at an international level, which will open doors for him that I never could.
“This just goes to show how gifts coupled with passion can be molded into a dreamcatcher.”