University News

Warhawks continue medal-winning tradition, athletic excellence at Paralympic Games

October 01, 2021

Written by Craig Schreiner | Photos by Craig Schreiner

By any definition, the two years leading up to the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan, had been a test of will, commitment and athleticism. In the gold medal men’s wheelchair basketball game between Team USA and the home team, Japan, that test ground down to the last minute. But when the medals were given out after the game, even the COVID-19 protocols smiled on the victors.

Instead of Paralympics officials distributing the medals, each player took a gold medal and put it around the neck of a teammate. In that moment, safety protocols meant that brothers honored brothers.


John Boie shoots a reverse layup.

John Boie replicates one of his shots during the Paralympics gold medal game against Japan, a reverse layup. Boie was one of five UW-Whitewater alumni on the 12-member Team USA men’s wheelchair basketball team. (UW-Whitewater photos/Craig Schreiner)


A Paralympic gold medal is heavy. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alumnus John Boie cheerfully bore that weight for three days, taking it off to shower, then wearing it to bed. Boie’s teammate Jake Williams, another Warhawk alumnus, put his medal around the neck of Team USA assistant coach Christina Schwab to give her a turn at wearing it. Only the players receive medals.


John Boie shoots a reverse layup.

Christina Schwab, head Warhawk women’s wheelchair basketball coach, applauds her players as they climb the hill. Schwab, a six-time Paralympian and gold medalist, just returned from the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo where she was an assistant on the coaching staff of the gold medalist men’s Team USA. (UW-Whitewater photos/Craig Schreiner)


Boie, an academic advisor at the university, and Schwab, Warhawk women’s wheelchair basketball head coach, have returned to duty on campus but they still radiate the experience. Boie and Williams were among five UW-Whitewater alumni out of 12 players on men’s wheelchair basketball Team USA. The others were Matt Scott, Matt Lesperance, and Nate Hinze. Schwab made history as the first woman to serve as an assistant coach on the men’s team. Team USA head coach Ron Lykins, who once coached the Warhawks, invited Schwab to join the staff.

Alumna Lindsey Zurbrugg and women’s wheelchair basketball Team USA won bronze medals, outperforming expectations. Schwab, who mentored Zurbrugg for four years at UW-Whitewater, can hardly contain her excitement about Zurbrugg, the youthful women’s Team USA and their potential to dominate women’s wheelchair basketball at future Paralympics. Ixhelt Gonzalez, a high school student from Chicago who has attended Warhawk wheelchair basketball camps, was with Zurbrugg the team.


John Boie shoots a reverse layup.

UW-Whitewater alumna and member of the Team USA women's wheelchair basketball team which won the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)


From the Paralympics, Zurbrugg has gone on to graduate school and more basketball at the University of Alabama, another national collegiate wheelchair basketball power. Zurbrugg is expected to compete at UW-Whitewater in an annual tournament hosted in November by the Warhawks.

Mariska Beijer, a Warhawk alumna who plays on The Netherlands national team, won a gold medal and was voted the outstanding female athlete of the games in online balloting. Other recent Warhawks who competed with their own national teams at the Paralympics included Mareike Miller, Laura Fuerst and Andre Bienek, all of Germany, and Sammy White of Australia.

These Paralympians represent a new class of elite athletes who have emerged in our lifetimes. Paralympic sports is its own world of competitiveness, skill, athleticism and mental toughness — a world that Warhawks will help to shape for generations to come.


A group of people in the wheelchair basketball gym.

Paralympics gold medalist John Boie visits the gym in the Roseman Building used by the Warhawk men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams on his first day back on campus. (UW-Whitewater photos/Craig Schreiner)


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