Written by Chris Lindeke | Photos submitted
Behind strong performances from current and former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student-athletes, the Team USA wheelchair basketball men’s and women’s teams each captured a gold medal and punched their ticket to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris over the weekend at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
The men secured first place with a convincing 81-45 victory against Colombia in the championship game to finish an impressive 5-0 showing at the tournament. Team USA raced out to a 26-7 lead in the first quarter and didn’t look back. Jake Williams, a former player and the current head coach for the UW-Whitewater men’s team, led the team with 24 points.
Current Warhawks AJ Fitzpatrick and Talen Jourdan, former Warhawk and current staff member John Boie, and former Warhawk and current graduate student Jeromie Meyer were also part of the gold medal-winning performance.
The Team USA women avenged two consecutive losses against Canada with a win in the final to claim their spot in Paris next summer, finishing off an unbeaten week in Santiago.
Former Warhawks Lindsay Zurbrugg and Rebecca Murray were among four Team USA players in double figures in scoring, together accounting for 27 points in the team’s 62-56 victory. Former Warhawk Josie DeHart was also a part of the gold medal run. The women’s coaching staff featured two Warhawks — head coach Christina Schwab, who serves as the coordinator of UW-Whitewater’s Learning Communities program, and assistant coach Desiree Miller, a UW-Whitewater alumna.
The 2024 Paralympic Games are scheduled from Aug. 28-Sept. 8, 2024, in Paris, France. Williams and Boie won gold as members of Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and Williams was a part of the gold medal-winning men's Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Murray’s dominating performance led the women’s Team USA to gold, also at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Murray’s dominating performance, along with Schwab and Miller, led the women’s Team USA to gold, also at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
UW-Whitewater is recognized consistently for exceptional programming and outcomes for students with disabilities. The Warhawk men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams are club sports that compete nationally.
The Warhawk men’s team has won 13 national championships since 1982, while the women have claimed three national titles. Several of each program’s alums are Paralympic medalists.