LONDON - After a disappointing loss to Canada Saturday in the semi final of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the U.S. Paralympic Men’s Wheelchair Rugby Team pulled together as one and gained a bit of redemption by defeating Japan in today’s bronze medal match.
The U.S. won the game easily, defeating the Japanese 53-43 before a sold out crowd at the Basketball Arena located in Olympic Park.
The U.S. was determined to win today’s game and go home with a medal, regardless of the color.
“We had to come out and win a medal today and go home with something, there was no other choice,” said Chuck Aoki (Minneapolis, Minn.) who led the team in scoring today with 13 goals.
The U.S. threw its weight around early, coming out aggressive and were able to create several defensive stops. Japan held tough however, and were only down to the Americans by one point, 12-11 after the first quarter.
Play was close throughout the second quarter before the U.S. stopped Japan’s Daisuke Ikezaki on the goal line with 1:42 left in the half. After that big stop by the U.S. used that momentum to go on a 3-0 run to close out the half and take a 3 point lead, 24-21, into the third quarter.
In the second half the Americans began to pull away. Powered by a 6-1 run at the end of the third quarter the U.S. was able to extend its lead to eight points, 39-31.
By that point the game was all but done as the Japanese could not stop the Americans potent offensive strikes. The U.S. controlled play in the fourth quarter and pulled away for the victory, 53-43.
This was the American’s second win over Japan in these Games after defeating them 64-48 in pool play earlier this week.
Today’s win was a total team victory as no one player performed better than another.
Chance Sumner (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was not surprised by the way the team came together to collect this victory.
“It was a team effort because we let it be that way,” said Sumner. “We knew we had to man up and come out and represent our country the best way we could.”
Although the win is bittersweet for the gold medal favorites, head coach James Gumbert could not have been more proud of his team’s play throughout the entire Paralympics.
“I am overwhelmed, they lived our motto today which was ‘together as one’ and said they were going to leave it all out there for each other,” said Gumbert. “As a coach that’s all you can ask from your team.”
Overall the U.S. finished the Games with a 4-1 record. This is the third straight Paralympic medal for the U.S. in wheelchair rugby.