The last to be added to the 2016 U.S. Women’s Paralympic Team roster was 21-year-old Vanessa Erskine, easily the most unique member of the team. With a unique story, unique journey and equally as unique personality, Erskine is your all-around package player. Raised in Kearney, Missouri, Erskine didn’t find the sport of wheelchair basketball until she was almost 18 years old after a tragic accident. She had taken up a summer job of bullfighting at professional rodeos, but it all went wrong when a bull took her feet out from under her sending her up into the air and landing her with a severe spinal cord injury that left her unable to use her legs.
She had been an athlete her entire life, but had never actually played organized basketball, besides one short season in the first grade, but that really does not count. She got involved with a NWBA Junior team in Kansas City and later met NWBA President Sarah Castle and was informed about the opportunities she had to play collegiately and internationally.
“When I first met Sarah it really sparked my love for the sport and was really what started my dream of hopefully making the U.S. National Team one day,” said Erskine.
She went on to play for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for three years and studied Health and Human Performance, Recreation and Leisure studies. She hopes to work in Health Education someday and teach high school health courses or become a medical social worker.
Leading into the 2016 games, Erskine had played for the BSC-Rollers Zwickau in Zwickau, Germany and headed back to Germany directly after winning a gold medal at the Rio Paralympic Games. Despite traveling all over the world and not being home very often, she is very close with her family. She is the youngest of three siblings and claims her family, especially her parents are her biggest supporters and number one fans. One of her other biggest fans is her 4-year-old long haired Chihuahua Wego, who has more stamps on his Pet Passport than most people.
Wheelchair basketball has provided her a new life that she is forever greatful for. Her journey is just beginning as she is still a young player with so much under her belt and so many aspirations still in her view finder. The Rio Games were the first of many for her, and hopes to be on the hardwoods for many more.