UW-Whitewater students, alums and coaches will be competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
UPDATE: Warhawks advance to Paralympic semifinals
The men's and women's U.S. wheelchair basketball teams and the women's German team advanced to the Paralympic semifinals.
The U.S. women's team will face Australia on Thursday, Sept. 6, after defeating Canada 67-55 in a come-from-behind win.
Desiree Miller, a UW-Whitewater graduate student, led the U.S. with 26 points. Becca Murray, a junior, led the team in rebounds (11) and assists (10).
Mareike Adermann, a UW-Whitwater junior from Germany, had three points and three assists in her team's win against Great Britain. They face the Netherlands immediately after the U.S. - Australia match.
The U.S. men were the first to make it to the semis, defeating Germany 57-46. Alumnus Jeremy Lade '05 had four points, five assists and seven rebounds in the game. Andre Bienek, a UW-Whitewater senior, led his German team in points (18), assists (3) and rebounds (13). The U.S. men will face either Australia or Poland on Thursday.
With 11 national titles, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater wheelchair athletes are among the best players in the country. Now, they're out to prove they can compete with the best in the world.
Fifteen Warhawks - students, alumni and coaches - are headed to London for the 2012 Paralympic Games.
"There's so much going on - just the size of it - thousands people cheering the athletes on. To experience that adrenaline, hearing the crowd roar like thunder, it's amazing," said Joe Chambers '10. "We're battling for gold medals. It's the highest level of the sport and we're lucky to have the opportunity to compete. Not everybody gets to do this."
"When you wear 'USA' on your uniform, it's so much more than you," said Matt Scott. You're not just representing the 12 players on your team. You're representing every wheelchair basketball player in the country. You want to perform at your best."
Scott and teammate Jeremy "Opie" Lade '05 are alums who played for the U.S. Paralympic team in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
"We didn't medal those times, but we have the experience and depth to take gold this year. We have a really good team and want to take care of business," Lade said.
Team USA will get help from Coach Melvin Juette '92, who played for the bronze medal-winning U.S. teams in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.
"Competing in the Paralymics is the highest honor bestowed on an athlete, he said. "To go up against the best players in the world is an exciting and gratifying opportunity."
Juette said his athletes play with integrity, passion, poise, confidence, speed and athleticism - qualities instilled in them at UW-Whitewater.
For several years now, while much of campus is still asleep, wheelchair athletes have taken to the practice courts in the pre-dawn hours, a ritual that builds camaraderie.
"We're like brothers," Nate Hinze '11 said. "There aren't 11 other guys I would rather play with."
Not all Warhawks will be suiting up for Team USA. Mareike Adermann, a junior who won a national championship with UW-Whitewater this year, will represent her home country of Germany.
"It's fun and challenging to play against my Warhawk teammates," Adermann said. "At times it may help me to know them, but it also makes it tougher because they know my weaknesses and strengths just as well. We play against each other tough, but when the competition ends, we are friends and talk a lot."
Adermann is a featured blogger for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation. She said UW-Whitewater's reputation for successful wheelchair athletics does not go unnoticed on the world stage.
"It's why athletes like me choose to come all the way from Germany. I think that so many of our athletes are on Paralympic teams simply shows the great work and progress that is being done in Whitewater," Adermann said. "It goes along with both teams winning national championships this year. Whitewater is one of the best places to be for this sport."
"It says a lot about the program," Scott said. "UW-Whitewater has a powerhouse wheelchair basketball program with players who train at a high level and coaches with strong knowledge and expertise."
Hinze is also quick to point out the other mentors, family and friends who helped and encouraged him.
"Every one of us has a story, a journey that brought us to this moment," Hinze said. "I hope everybody who helped me along the way can take pride in my development as an athlete and person."
Many of the athletes' families will be making the trip to London to watch their Warhawks as they live out a dream.
"I've wanted to be on Team USA since I was ten years old," said first-time Paralympian Ian Lynch '07. "Now, I just want to win."
Mareike Adermann, junior
Andre Bienek, senior
Sarah Binsfeld, senior
Desiree Miller, graduate
Becca Murray, junior
Eric Barber '95
Joe Chambers '10
Nate Hinze '11
Joey Johnson '09
Mel Juette '92 (coach)
Jeremy Lade '05
Ian Lynch '07
Tom Colwell (coach)
Dan Price (coach)