Eight U.S. Paralympians and 11 members from the 2015 U.S. Parapan Am Games highlight the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games Selection Camp for Women’s Wheelchair Basketball. The 2016 Selection Camp will take place at the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Ala., Jan 4-6.
The U.S. women’s team qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan American Games. The U.S. women dominated the Parapan Am competition by outscoring their opponents by 55 points per game and avenged their 2014 World Championships fourth-place finish by defeating Canada for the gold medal in Toronto, Canada.
Three-time U.S. Paralympian Christina Schwab of Dane, Wis., leads the group of athletes as she is ready to be selected for her fourth Paralympic Games, after playing on the fifth-place team at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, and winning gold at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Schwab took time away from the game for the 2012 London Paralympics to start a family.
Becca Murray of Germantown, Wis., and Natalie Schneider of Crete, Neb., look to be selected to their third consecutive U.S. Paralympics team, after claiming gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and finishing fourth at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Also returning for a potential third Paralympics is two-time gold medalist Jenn Ruddell of Queen Creek, Ariz.
Four other 2012 London standouts hope for a return trip to the Paralympics in Rio de Janerio this summer: Darlene Hunter of Commerce Township, Mich.; Rose Hollermann of Elysian, Minn.; Desiree Miller of Monroe, Wash.; and Jennifer Poist of McSherrystown, Pa.
The University of Illinois Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team will be strongly represented with five athletes accepting invites: Megan Blunk of Gig Harbor, Wash.; Kaitlyn Eaton of Champaign, Ill.; Gail Gaeng of Frederick, Md.; Shelby Gruss of Ossian, Ind.; and Kendra Zeman of Anoka, Minn.
The Selection Camp will be guided by U.S. Head Coach Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Ill., a two-time U.S. Paralympic Games gold medalist, and Assistant Coach Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, Calif. Lisa Hilborn and Mary Allison Cook, both from Birmingham, Ala., will round out the selection committee.
The final selection of 12 athletes that will represent the United States at the Rio Paralympic Games will occur in June of this year, following several more evaluation camps and friendly competitions. The Rio Paralympic Games are scheduled for Sept. 7-18.
The U.S. Women’s team finished fourth at the 2012 London Paralympics, after claiming the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.
The sport of wheelchair basketball started in the United States in 1945 following World War II. The sport has grown worldwide and was introduced at the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games and today it is nearly participated in 100 countries. The sport is designed for athletes who have physical impairment that prevents running, jumping and pivoting. Men and women play on teams of five players each and the measurements of the court and the height of the baskets are the same as in able-bodied basketball.
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2016 Rio Paralympic Games
Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Selection Camp Roster
Name Residence Hometown
Megan Blunk Urbana, Ill. Gig Harbor, Wash.
Kimmie Champion Forest Park, Ill. Vidalia, Ga.
Abby Dunkin Arlington, Texas New Braunfels, Texas
Kaitlyn Eaton Champaign, Ill. Houston, Texas
Vanessa Erskine Zwickau, Germany Kearney, Mo.
Gail Gaeng Champaign, Ill. Frederick, Md.
Shelby Gruss Champaign, Ill. Ossain, Ind.
Rose Hollermann Arlington, Texas Elysian, Minn.
Darlene Hunter Arlington, Texas Commerce Township, Mich.
Desiree Miller Whitewater, Wis. Monroe, Wash.
Becca Murray Germantown, Wis. Germantown, Wis.
Jennifer Poist Tucson, Ariz. McSherrystown, Pa.
Jennifer Ruddell Queen Creek, Ariz. Queen Creek, Ariz.
Natalie Schneider Crete, Neb. Crete, Neb.
Christina Schwab Lakewood, Colo. Dane, Wis.
Mackenzie Soldan Tuscaloosa, Ala. Hemlock, Mich.
Morgan Wood Alrlington, Texas Gordonsville, Tenn.
Kendra Zeman Ramsey, Minn. Anoka, Minn.
Head Coach: Stephanie Wheeler, Champaign, Ill.
Assistant Coach: Trooper Johnson, San Lorenzo, Calif.
Team Leader: Kearstin Gehlhausen, Whitewater, Wis.
Athletic Trainer: Karla Wessels, Lexington, Ky.
Selection Committee Members: Lisa Hilborn, Birmingham, Ala,; Mary Allison Cook, Birmingham, Ala.