September 11, 2021
U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team medals again
Team USA captures bronze with a squad of nine first-time Paralympians
The U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team captured the bronze medal last week in the Tokyo Paralympics. The medal is the team’s seventh in the last nine Paralympics.
After losing their first game to the 2018 world champs, the Netherlands, 68-58, the Americans dominated in a 68-34 win over Spain. They later suffered a close defeat at the hands of China, 42-41, before cruising to a 62-21 victory over Algeria to finish pool play with a 2-2 record.
In the quarterfinals, the U.S. defeated Canada 63-48 behind strong performances by team veterans Rose Hollermann (19 points) and Natalie Schneider (18 points). In the semis, they again fell to China, this time by a five-point margin, 41-36. The Americans convincingly defeated Germany 64-51 for the bronze medal. First-time Paralympian Lindsay Zurbrugg led the U.S. in scoring with 22 points. Hollermann finished the game with a triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and Schneider chipped in a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds).
Prior to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team had won gold in three of the last four Paralympics (2004, 2008 and 2016). This year’s team was represented by a more youthful roster, with nine of twelve players competing in their first Paralympic Games. Six of the rookies gained experience on the U.S. silver-medal-winning 2019 Parapan American Games team. At age 17, Ixhelt Gonzalez is the youngest member of the team. Gonzalez previously represented the national team in the 2019 under-25 world championships.
The young stars on the U.S. squad will perhaps have more opportunities to demonstrate their skills on an international stage soon, as the first-ever women’s wheelchair basketball league will launch later this year. The British Wheelchair Basketball Women’s Premier League will be comprised of elite players from the United Kingdom and also welcome international players. The league’s inaugural season will tip off in December 2021 and run through May 2022.