|Rose Hollermann (C) of the USA and Johanna Welin (L) of Germany in action during women's wheelchair basketball final between Germany and USA at Olympic Arena on day 9 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. © • 2016 Getty Images|
The National Wheelchair Basketball Association in the USA (NWBA) has announced its 2017 women's wheelchair basketball national team, following a three-day selection camp at the US Olympic Training Centre.
Three returning 2016 Paralympic gold medallists will lead Team USA toward the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Americas Zonal Qualifier this summer. The final selection of 12 athletes for the Americas Qualifier will occur later this summer.
The path to Tokyo 2020 starts this year with the Americas 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 US Team will compete at the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. The quadrenium will roll to an end at Tokyo 2020.
Rolling the team of 16 athletes towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is two-time Paralympian Desi Miller, who was a significant contributor to the gold-medal success in Rio. Miller, a three-time Para Pan Am gold medallist, also played on two World Championships teams, winning gold in 2010.
Abby Dunkin and Vanessa Erskine – both also competed at Rio 2016 – begin their journey toward Tokyo 2020. Dunkin also was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. Erskine currently plays professional wheelchair basketball in Germany.
Emily Oberst and Brittany Gustafson join the team and currently play for the University of Alabama. Josie Aslakson and Molly Welfe all play college basketball for the University of Texas at Arlington and will look to contribute to the team this year.
Kaitlyn Eaton and Shelby Gruss, both coming from the University of Illinois, made the team.
Lindsay Zurbrugg will join from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, along with Sarah Heinzl from the University of Arizona.
The depth of women's wheelchair basketball in the USA is prevalent as four high school athletes were selected: Josie DeHart, Jordan Kozloski, Riley Ljungdahl and Zoe Voris.
NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson will serve as the women’s head coach. Johnson, a 15-time US national team member and two-time Paralympic medallist, will be assisted by Amy Spangler and Adam Kramer. Athletic Trainer Karla Wessels and team leader Kearstin Gehlhausen 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 Johnson. "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."
Team USA returned to the top of the podium at the Rio Paralympics, marking the third Paralympic gold medal in the last four Games (2004, 2008 and 2016). The US women's team dominated in Rio going undefeated, 7-0, and maintains the medal count lead with seven Paralympic medals, including four gold medals.
2017 US women's wheelchair basketball national teamJosie Aslakson / Josie DeHart / Abby Dunkin / Kaitlyn Eaton / Vanessa Erskine / Shelby Gruss
Brittany Gustafson / Sarah Heinzl / Jordan Kozlowski / Riley Ljungdahl / Desiree Miller
Emily Oberst / Zoe Voris / Molly Welfe / Morgan Wood /Lindsay Zurbrugg