USA Basketball’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams, led by NBA and WNBA stars respectively, weren’t the only United States hoops squads to win gold in Tokyo, Japan this summer.
The USA men’s national wheelchair team defeated host Japan 64-60 last Sunday to defend the gold medal they won at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. It was their first back-to-back titles since finishing first at the 1972 Paralympics in West Germany and completing the repeat in 1976 in Toronto, Canada.
Steve Serio, the USA captain, and four-time Paralympian, had a team high 28 points and added nine assists, doing his best impression of Kevin Durant. “We were up against a great team, in their home country, their home stadium, and we had a performance like this,” he proudly said.
The 33-year-old Westbury, New York native, like so many other athletes, was eager to get to Japan after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Olympic competition one year. “This team is just so resilient. We’ve been waiting five years for this opportunity, ever since Rio.
“With everything that’s gone on in the last 18 months,” he continued, “we knew it was going to be a challenge. We’ve stuck together from day one and we believe in each other.”
Serio and his teammates embody the pure spirit of sports the Paralympics illuminates. From its origins in 1948, when German-British neurologist Dr. Ludwig Guttman organized what was named the “Stoke Mandeville Games for the Paralyzed” for a small group of British WWII veterans, the Paralympic Games has grown into one of the world’s largest sporting events. Since 1988, the Summer Paralympics have taken place in the same city as the Summer Olympics. In 1992 the Winter Paralympics followed suit and have been held in the Olympics’ host city.
Both the summer and winter Paralympics start roughly two weeks after the conclusion of the Olympics. The 2020 Games ran from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 with more than 4,500 athletes from more than 160 nations participating.
China topped the medal count with 207 total, including 96 gold. Great Britain was second in medals won with 124 (41 gold). And the U.S. third with 104, bringing home 37 gold, 36 silver and 31 bronze.