RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 12, 2007) - The U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Team returns to the Parapan American Games to defend its gold medal title from the 2003 Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina. It was there the U.S. won a berth to the 2004 Paralympic Games and eventually finished sixth in the 2004 competition, their highest finish ever in the Paralympic Games.
The U.S. returns four veterans from the 2004 team including team captain Brent Rasmussen (Omaha, Neb.), Eric Duda (Edmond, Okla.), Curtis Lease (Naperville, Ill.) and Chris Seilkop (Deland, Fla.).
A ninth-place finish at the 2006 Sitting Volleyball World Championships was not enough to advance the team to the 2008 Paralympic Games. Now, the Parapan Am Games are the final opportunity for the U.S. to qualify for the 2008 Paralympic Games. The U.S. must win the gold in order to head to Beijing next year.
The team arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Friday and began practices at the Rio Centre on Aug. 11. They practiced in the morning and afternoon and then finished the day with a scrimmage against Costa Rica.
"We are trying to get focused at this point," U.S. Head Coach Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.) said. "Today I want the guys to get mentally ready. Once they are mentally prepared, the physical part will be much easier."
Besides Costa Rica, the teams of Canada and Brazil will also be represented. Although the Canadians have competed in standing volleyball, this is their first international competition in sitting volleyball. The U.S. defeated Brazil at the 2006 World Championships; however, Hamiter indicated "both teams have improved".
In addition to the four returning players, Hamiter commented he expects great play from Jose Zabala (Carolina, Puerto Rico), Matt Johnson (Omaha, Neb.), Edgar LaForest (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Brad Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.).
The U.S. Sitting Men will scrimmage again on Aug. 13 against Canada. They will begin competition on Aug.15 at 11 a.m. (local time) versus Canada. Pool play will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with all teams playing each other. The teams will then be seeded according to records for the semifinal games.
2007 U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Parapan Am Games Roster
No. Name Position Current Residence
1 Matt Johnson L Lincoln, Neb.
3 Curtis Lease MH Naperville, Ill.
4 Hugo Storer OH Houston, Texas
5 Eric Duda OH/MH Edmond, Okla.
7 Bradley Johnson MH Pompano Beach, Fla.
8 James Stuck O/MH Edmond, Okla.
9 Roderick Green OH/MH Edmond, Okla.
10 Edgar LaForest OH San Juan, Puerto Rico
12 Brent Rasmussen OH Omaha, Neb.
13 Josh Franklin OH Tomball, Texas
14 Jose Zabala S/H Carolina, Puerto Rico
15 Chris Seilkop S/H Deland, Fla.
Head Coach: Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.)
Assistant Coach/Team Leader: Dixie Collins (Marshall, Virg.)
Assistant Coach: Edgar Miraku (Edmond, Okla.)
U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Parapan Am Games Schedule (all times local)
Aug. 15: USA vs. Canada
Aug. 16: USA vs. Costa Rico
Aug. 17: USA vs. Brazil
Aug. 18, 9 a.m. Semifinal: First vs. Fourth
Aug. 18, 11 a.m. Semifinal: Second vs. Third
Aug. 19, 9 a.m. Bronze Medal Match
Aug. 19, 11 a.m. Gold Medal Match