In the wake of a phenomenal gold medal finish last August at the America's Cup in Columbia (watch game here), we want to hi-light the hard-working and dedicated athletes that make up Team USA. First up is Chris Kommer. Read all about Chris below:
Name: Chris Kommer
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Current team (other than USA): Team Captain of Grand Rapids Pacers, Championship Division
How many years have you been playing?
CK: My first season playing wheelchair basketball was as a junior at 10 yrs old, it was the 96-97 season.
What number do you wear and why?
CK: I started out as a kid with #24 in the NWBA and #7 as a USA team member. I had a couple choices for Team USA but am content with any number jersey with USA on the chest!
Any superstitions when you play?
CK: My pre-game warm up consist of some yoga moves to get moving and loose.
What was your first experience with wheelchair basketball? How and why did you start playing?
CK: My first experience with wheelchair basketball was watching a scrimmage packed with highlights by Lee Montgomery in his prime and 17-year0old Paul Schulte. I was impressed with the speed, agility and poise they had in their wheelchairs and joined the team immediately. That year, we went on to win a National Championship led by Senior Paul Schulte and Coach Lee Montgomery. I didn't get any playing time that game and I have not been crowned champion since, but I spent the following years working on my game to become an elite athlete and chase championships at the Junior and College level.
What is your favorite part about the sport and playing?
CK: For me Wheelchair basketball has been something I have worked extremely hard on and consider a useful tool. Wheelchair basketball has provided me with many life experiences including travel, competition, education, a career, and the honor and pride of representing my country. The opportunities that this sport has provided for me are truly remarkable and I hope continue in the future.
CK: Winning the gold Medal in 2004 at the Junior Games in Australia, followed by winning Gold (at the America’s Cup) this summer in Colombia!
What does the sport of wheelchair basketball, particularly in the U.S., need most?
CK: I think the sport needs more financial support in the form of equipment, travel, and player compensation at elite levels. Many of the nation’s top players seek employment by European teams that are well supported to explore a career as a professional-level athlete. Being able to keep our elite players in the states will produce a more competitive league providing a higher level game with the hope of creating more exposure and support. Raising awareness will help create more sponsorship opportunities for all teams in the NWBA, a vision they understand and have been working towards.
What is it like playing for your country?
CK: It is the ultimate honor to wear USA across my chest. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifices to get to that point but the reward is to be a part of something special and to share a common goal with your teammates. The sense of accomplishment is fantastic when a team is able to come together, execute, and achieve their goals!
What person in your life inspires you the most? Any role models or mentors?
CK: I am blessed to have many great people within my program but four people in particular have pushed and inspired me to be great. Lee Montgomery has been coaching me since day one in the sport and continues to mentor me on a regular basis. Coach Jim Hayes inspired me and gave me the confidence to take on any of life’s trials and tribulations. Willie Hernandez always pushes me to be better on and off the court a well as all of team PER4MX for the factory support necessary for any wheelchair athlete. Paul Schulte showed me the possibilities this sport could provide from the start and the work ethic it took to get there. He proved as a role model for a young boy in a new sport and what a good one! Also thanks to Mo, my family, friends, and all the other coaches I have had the privilege of playing for.
Pose a question for our next member of Team USA:
CK: What is your favorite international trip that you have taken with Team USA?