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Three U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalists to Lead 2017 U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team

01/25/2017, 4:45pm CST

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – The NWBA announced its 2017 U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball National Team on Wednesday, following a three-day selection camp at the Olympic Training Center. Leading Team USA towards the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation America’s Zonal Qualifier this summer will be three returning 2016 Paralympic gold medalists. The final selection of 12 athletes for the America’s Qualifier will occur later this summer. 

Rolling the team of 16 athletes towards the Tokyo Paralympics is two-time U.S. Paralympian Desi Miller of Monroe, Washington, who was a significant contributor to the gold-medal success in Rio. Miller, a three-time Para Pan Am gold medalists, has also played on two World Championships teams, winning the gold in 2010.

Abby Dunkin of New Braunfels, Texas, and Vanessa Erskine of Kearney, Missouri, begin their journey towards Tokyo 2020. Dunkin a student-athlete at the University of Texas at Arlington, also was a member of the gold-medal winning 2015 Para Pan Am Games team. Erskine, a two-time College National Champion for the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, currently plays professional wheelchair basketball in Germany.

The path to Tokyo for wheelchair basketball starts in 2017 with the America’s Zonal Qualifying tournament, where Team USA must place in the top four to qualify for the 2018 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. In 2019, the U.S. Team will compete at the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. The quadrenium will roll to an end at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Dunkin will be joined by three other athletes who currently play for the University of Texas at Arlington. They are Josie Aslakson of Jordan, Minnesota; Molly Welfe of Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Morgan Wood of Gordonsville, Tennessee.

The University of Alabama is represented by Emily Oberst of Brookefield, Wisconsin, and Brittany Gustafson of Monticello, Minnesota. Miller also graduated from the University of Alabama.

Kaitlyn Eaton of Houston, Texas, and Shelby Gruss of Ossian, Indiana, were selected and play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois.

In addition to Erskine, Lindsay Zurbrugg of Portland, Oregon, has made the cut and attends the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Sarah Heinzl of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is on the roster of 16 and attends the University of Arizona.

The depth of women’s wheelchair basketball in the United States is prevalent as four high school athletes were selected: Josie DeHart of Grand Junction, Colorado; Jordan Kozloski of Warner Robins, Georgia; Riley Ljungdahl of Longmont, Colorado; and Zoe Voris of Crown Point, Indiana.

NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, California, will serve as the U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach. Johnson, a 15-time U.S. Men’s National Team member and two-time Paralympic medalist, will be assisted by Amy Spangler of Madison, Wisconsin, and Adam Kramer of Northport, Alabama. Athletic Trainer Karla Wessels of Lexington, Kentucky, and Team Leader Kearstin Gehlhausen of Denver, Colorado, return for a second term.

“After three days of intense testing and evaluations, we are confident that we have selected the athletes with the best potential for growth and development leading into the new quad,” said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Trooper Johnson of San Lorenzo, California. “This is a young team and our coaching staff is excited about the growth potential that is in front of us. We have confidence in this team, and it is starting to fall into place for another successful run to the podium in 2020.”

The U.S. Women’s returned to the top of the podium at the Rio Paralympics, marking the third Paralympic gold medal in the last four Paralympics Games (2004, 2008, and 2016). The U.S. Women’s team dominated the field in Rio going undefeated, 7-0, and maintains the medal count lead with seven Paralympic medals, including four gold medals.

Last summer, Team USA led six statistical categories over the seven-game stretch at the Rio Paralympics. It is the third time that the United States has gone undefeated at the Paralympics, en route to the gold medal. Team USA led shooting percentage at 53.8 percent; points for at 505 points (72.1/game); assists with 178 (25.4/game); fouls with 55; and the least turnovers at 61 (8.7/game). The United States was second in points against with 42.3 per game.

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