COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The U.S. Olympic Committee announced Paralympians Erin Popovich and Jeremy Campbell as its September Athletes of the Month for their accomplishments at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, while the U.S. Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team received Team of the Month honors for its gold-medal performance.
During the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, Popovich (Fort Collins, Colo.) won six medals in her six individual events, finishing with four gold medals and two silver medals. Her gold medal performances came in the S7 women's classification in the 100 meter and 400m freestyles, 100m breaststroke, and 200m individual medley. Her silver medal performances included the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly.
In Beijing, Popovich set a total of 20 new records - two world, six Paralympic Games, five Parapan American and seven American. Her world-record performances were the 200m IM and 100m breaststroke. Popovich's performances were so dominating that during both the 100m breaststroke and 400m freestyle events, her intermediate splits (50m breaststroke and 200m freestyle respectively) set new American records.
Campbell (Chula Vista, Calif.) made a statement in his Paralympic Games debut last month. At just 21 years old, Campbell won a gold medal in the P44 pentathlon, one of track & field's most grueling events (long jump, shot put, 100 meters, discus and 400m), setting the world record in the process. He finished with a score of 4,662 points, far surpassing the old mark of 4,444.
He also picked up a second gold medal in the F44 discus to complete his first Paralympic Games as a double gold medalist.
The U.S. Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team won their second straight Paralympic gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games in September. The team finished the tournament with a perfect 7-0 record including two wins against the silver medalist (Germany) and two wins against the bronze medalist (Australia). The game results were: USA 42, Germany 38; USA 61, Australia 42; USA 56, Great Britain 31; USA 68, Brazil 38; USA 75, China 31 (quarterfinals); USA 60, Australia 47 (semifinals), USA 50, Germany 38 (Gold Medal).
The USA was the top defensive team (37.8 points per game) and was the top offensive team (58.9 ppg). Winning the gold medal was a total team effort with 12 players averaging over 10 minutes per game. The team had only one player average over 10 points per game. In the seven games, three different players led the team in scoring, three different players led the team in rebounds and three different players led the team in assists.
Wheelchair racer Jessica Galli (Savoy, Ill.), runner up to Popvich in the balloting, won five medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. Galli won gold in the 400-meters; silver in the 100m, 200m and 800m; and a bronze in the 4x100m relay. The five medal haul earned Galli the distinction of winning the most medals on the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team at the 2008 Games. Another one of the highlights of her competition included a new world record mark in the women's 400m with a time of 54.88.
Cyclist Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.) finished third in the voting. She earned a world title in the elite women's time trial at the 2008 UCI Road World Championships in September. Long regarded as one of the top American cyclists of her generation, Neben eclipsed her sport's pinnacle with the World gold medal. After twice cracking the top five at the World Championships (4th in 2007 and 5th in 2005), Neben outpaced silver medalist Christiane Soeder (AUT) by seven seconds, bronze medalist Judith Arndt (GER) by 21 seconds and Olympic gold medalist and favorite Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) by 25 seconds to add a world title to an already impressive list of career accomplishments.
Paralympic swimmer Lantz Lamback (Augusta, Ga.) finished second on the men's side. At the Paralympic Games in Beijing, Lamback won four medals in individual events, finishing with a gold and three silver. During the Games, Lamback set a total of 19 new records - two world, two Paralympic, seven Parapan American and eight American. His records include the 50 meter backstroke (leadoff of the 200m medley relay) which was a new American record, the men's S7 classification 50m butterfly was American and Parapan American and the 200m freestyle (split during 400m freestyle event) which was also a new American record.
Lamback's gold-medal performance came in the men's S7 100m backstroke where he set new American, Parapan American, Paralympic Games and world records both in the preliminaries and again in the finals of the event. Lamback earned silver medals in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle events, finishing all in both American and Parapan American record times.
Third place on the men's side went to Paralympic cyclist Oz Sanchez (San Diego, Calif.) who was the first to cross the finish line in the men's time trial at the 2008 Paralympic Games, winning the gold with a final posted time of 20:16.52. Sanchez finished :20 seconds before the second place winner, but not far behind was Alejandro Albor (Elk Grove, Calif.) who posted a time of 20:59.49, good enough for the bronze. Sanchez also won a bronze medal in the road race two days later.
The U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team finished second in the team voting. Over the past four years, the U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team has gone 31-1 in tournament play, including a 5-0 performance at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. The team recaptured the gold medal after finishing third at the Athens Games. The team during this quadrennial quest also captured a World Championship, a World Wheelchair Games Championship, a North American Cup Championship and two Canada Cup Championships.
The 2008 16U National Baseball Team finished third. At the COPABE (Confederation of Pan Am Baseball) 16U Pan Am Championships played from Sept. 12-21 in Veracruz, Mexico, the team went 8-0 for the gold medal, which qualified the Americans for next year's World Championships in Taiwan. The U.S. outscored opponents 98-12 in the tournament and recorded the lowest ERA (1.11) in the program's history. The team also threw a no-hitter vs. Brazil. Bryce Harper (Las Vegas, Nev.), who had 16 hits, 16 runs and 16 RBIs, was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The program currently has a 23 game winning streak over the past three years, resulting in three gold medals.
1. Erin Popovich, Paralympic Swimming
2. Jessica Galli, Paralympic Track & Field
3. Amber Neben, Cycling
1. Jeremy Campbell, Paralympic Track & Field
2. Lantz Lamback, Paralympic Swimming
3. Oz Sanchez, Paralympic Cycling
1. Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team
2. U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team
3. 16U National Baseball Team