COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – Three returning U.S. Paralympic gold medalists will highlight the roster of 12 athletes that will represent the United States at the 2017 International Wheelchair Basketball Federation America’s Zonal Qualifier, set for Cali, Colombia, August 21-30. Leading the team is two-time Paralympian Desi Miller of Monroe, Washington, who was a significant contributor to the gold-medal performance in Rio. Miller, a three-time Para Pan American gold medalist, has also played on two World Championships teams, winning the gold in 2010.
This is the first major event for Team USA as they start the roll towards the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Team USA must place in the top four at the America’s Qualifier, in order to compete at the 2018 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. The 2019 Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, is the other major event for Team USA.
Also making the America’s Zonal team, were Abby Dunkin of New Braunfels, Texas, and Vanessa Erskine of Kearney, Missouri. 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.
Dunkin will be joined by two other athletes who currently play for the University of Texas at Arlington. They are Josie Aslakson of Jordan, Minnesota; 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. Shelby Gruss of Ossian, Indiana, was selected and plays for 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 12 and attends the University of Arizona.
The depth of women’s wheelchair basketball in the United States is prevalent as two high school athletes were selected: 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.
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.