With 97 days remaining before the opening of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team will be hosting the U.S. Women’s International Friendly competition at the Olympic Training Center’s Sports Center I complex in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 5-7. Canada, the reigning World Champions, Paralympic Games host Brazil and Asia Oceania champion China will arrive Thursday to participate in the three days of events.
The Colorado Springs event provides a strong field of international teams, and the event is open to the public free of charge. Fans are invited to attend the games, and must enter the Olympic Training Center through the Boulder Street entrance.
There will be four games daily, and the U.S. women will start things off against China at 9 a.m. MDST., who happens to be Team USA’s second round opponent at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. The second game of day will be Canada vs. Brazil at 11 a.m.
The Sunday evening session will renew the border rivalry between the United States and Canada. In 2014, Canada defeated the United States in the semi-finals of the World Championships and went onto win the gold medal, while the United States finished fourth. Last summer at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Team USA returned to the top of podium by edging Canada for the gold medal and qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
To close out Sunday, Brazil and China will tip off at 7 p.m.
Monday, June 6 Schedule
9 a.m. China vs. Canada
11 a.m. USA vs. Brazil
5 p.m. China vs. USA
7 p.m. Brazil vs. Canada
Tuesday, June 7 Schedule
9 a.m. Canada vs. USA
11 a.m. China vs. Brazil
5 p.m. USA vs. Brazil
7 p.m. China vs. Canada
In the final preparation phases for the Rio Games, the U.S. team will see a variety of teams in the next five weeks. Team USA will have two more international competitions following the Colorado Springs event (Olympic Training Center, Lake Placid, New York, June 22-26 and Women’s World Super Cup, Frankfurt, Germany, July 13-18).
The U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team features a deep pool of athletes with many accolades and is highlighted by two-time Paralympic Games gold medalist Christina Schwab of Dane, Wisconsin, who resides in Denver, Colorado, and could be making her fifth appearance at the Games in September. Schwab has played on three U.S.Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball teams (2000, 2004-gold, 2008-gold) and participated in track and field in 2012.
The U.S. team features 12 athletes and is comprised of seven wheelchair basketball U.S. Paralympians, eight of the 12 returning from the 2014 World Championships, and 10 athletes from the gold-medal winning 2015 Parapan Am Games team.
Two-time Paralympians Becca Murray of Germantown, Wisconsin, and Natalie Schneider of Crete, Nebraska, are eyeing their third set of Games, after winning in 2008 and finishing fourth in 2012.
Rounding out the remaining U.S. Paralympians that will be playing in Colorado Springs will be: Rose Hollermann of Elysian, Minnesota; Darlene Hunter of Commerce Township, Michigan; Desiree Miller of Monroe, Washington; Jennifer Poist of McSherrystown, Pennsylvania; and Mackenzie Soldan of Hemlock, Michigan. These five were also members of the 2015 U.S. Parapan Am Games and 2014 U.S. Women’s World Championships teams.
Four upcoming elite athletes will attempt to make their first Paralympics, and will be on the hard courts next week in Sports Center I. 2014 Women’s World Championships teammates Megan Blunk of Gig Harbor, Washington, and Gail Gaeng of Frederick, Maryland, will be joined by Abigail Dunkin of New Braunfels, Texas, and Vanessa Erskine of Kearney, Missouri.
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.
The U.S. Women’s Head Coach is Stephanie Wheeler of Champaign, Illinois, who won two Paralympic Games in 2004 and 2008, and will be assisted by NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, California, and Amy Spangler of Madison, Wisconsin, with Kearstin Gehlhausen of Whitewater, Wisconsin, serving as the team leader.
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.
-- ### --
U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Roster
No. Name Residence Hometown Birthdate
4 Megan Blunk Urbana, Ill. Gig Harbor, Wash. 09/12/1989
23 Abby Dunkin Arlington, Texas New Braunfels, Texas 11/24/1995
11 Vanessa Erskine Zwickau, Germany Kearney, Mo. 07/12/1994
2 Gail Gaeng Champaign, Ill. Frederick, Md. 12/27/1992
15 Rose Hollermann Arlington, Texas Elysian, Minn. 12/25/1995
5 Darlene Hunter Arlington, Texas Commerce Township, Mich. 04/16/1982
9 Desiree Miller Whitewater, Wis. Monroe, Wash. 08/12/1987
12 Becca Murray Germantown, Wis. Germantown, Wis. 03/15/1990
10 Jennifer Poist Tucson, Ariz. McSherrystown, Pa. 03/14/1989
8 Natalie Schneider Crete, Neb. Crete, Neb. 02/11/1983
24 Christina Schwab Lakewood, Colo. Dane, Wis. 07/31/1980
33 Mackenzie Soldan Tuscaloosa, Ala. Hemlock, Mich. 05/14/1992
Head Coach: Stephanie Wheeler, Champaign, Illinois
Assistant Coach: Trooper Johnson, San Lorenzo, California; Amy Spangler, Madison, Wisconsin
Team Leader: Kearstin Gehlhausen, Whitewater, Wisconsin
Athletic Trainer: Karla Wessels, Lexington, Kentucky