It was a fantastic year for a number of U.S. Paralympic teams that won world championships, Parapan American Games titles and, in some cases, earned the right to compete at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Up for consideration for Paralympic Team of the Year in the 2019 Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Year, are the men’s Para archery recurve open team that won the world title, the women’s sitting volleyball team that won Parapan American gold, the sled hockey team that won the world championship and both the wheelchair rugby and men’s wheelchair basketball teams that won titles at the Parapan American Games and qualified for Tokyo.
Which one will win is partly up to you.
Online fan voting accounts for 50 percent of the vote and closes end of day Monday, Oct. 28. The other 50 percent of the vote comes from members of the Olympic and Paralympic community. Award winners will be announced during a ceremony held on Nov. 19 at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. NBC will provide coverage of the awards show from 3-4 p.m. ET on Dec. 22.
Vote now at TeamUSA.org/Awards. Here is more on the five teams nominated for Paralympic Team of the Year.
U.S. Men’s World Championship Recurve Open Team, Para Archery
Team Members: Eric Bennett, Michael Lukow and Timothy Palumbo
What They Did: Seeded fifth at the world championships, the men defeated No. 4 South Korea in the quarterfinals and then upset No. 1 China in the semifinal to reach the final against No. 3 Russia. In 2017 the U.S. went up against Russia in the championship match and Russia prevailed with a 6-2 win, but there would be none of that in the rematch. The U.S. men dominated with a 6-0 shutout for the gold medal in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
Why It Mattered: The trio has been together for a long time, and this is their first-ever world title. That, combined with beating higher seeds throughout the playoffs, made this a defining moment for Team USA.
Fun Fact: Bennett, a three-time Paralympian, is the first American to compete in two different disciplines (compound and recurve) at two different Games.
What’s Next: Unfortunately there’s no men’s team event at the Paralympic Games, but the U.S. does hold two quota spots for the men’s individual competition, and there is a mixed recurve team event (men and women competing together). The next big event on the schedule is the Para Pan American Championships in Mexico in March. The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Archery will begin in Phoenix in April.
U.S. Women’s Parapan American Team, Sitting Volleyball
Team Members: Monique Burkland, Tia Edwards, Heather Erickson, Katie Holloway, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Nichole Millage, Nicole Nieves, Sydney Satchell, Lexi Shifflett, Lora Webster, Jillian Williams, Bethany Zummo
What They Did: Throughout the Parapan American Games Lima 2019, the U.S. women were unstoppable, losing just one set and winning all five games including the gold-medal match, a 25-16, 25-19, 25-13 victory over Brazil.
Why It Mattered: Ranked No. 1 in the world, the U.S successfully defended its Parapan American title won in 2015. The fact that the Americans only lost once set in the process shows their dominance at the tournament.
Fun Fact: Erickson, the 2018 U.S. women’s sitting player of the year, coaches the Oklahoma Peak 11s team that competed at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships this year.
What’s Next: The team qualified for next year’s Paralympic Games when it finished second at the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships, and now all the focus is on defending the 2016 gold medal.
U.S. National Sled Hockey Team
Team Members: Steve Cash, Ralph DeQuebec, Travis Dodson, Chris Douglas, Declan Farmer, Colin Gooley, Noah Grove, Josh Hargis, Jen Lee, Luke McDermott, Kevin McKee, Josh Pauls, Rico Roman, Brody Roybal, Josh Sweeney, Jack Wallace, Kyle Zych
What They Did: The U.S. went undefeated at the 2019 world championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic, beating Canada in overtime to win the gold medal for the fourth time. They also captured an unprecedented fifth consecutive and seventh overall Para Hockey Cup victory and finished the season with a 10-1-0-1 (W, OTW, OTL, L) record.
Why It Mattered: Although this was the team’s eighth consecutive medal at the world championships, it was its first gold in four years. It was also just the second time the team went undefeated in tournament history.
Fun Fact: As a starter, Steve Cash owns every U.S. goaltender record in world championship play. He was in net for all six of the U.S. wins over Canada last season.
What’s Next: The team will look for yet another victory in the Para Hockey Cup beginning Dec. 1.
U.S. Men’s Parapan American Team, Wheelchair Basketball
Team Members: Brian Bell, John Boie, Aaron Gouge, Trevon Jenifer, Matt Lesperance, Ryan Neiswender, Mike Paye, Jorge Sanchez, Steve Serio, Matt Scott, Josh Turek, Jake Williams
What They Did: The sled hockey team wasn’t the only one to beat Canada for a big title. After knocking off Argentina in the semifinals, the men’s wheelchair basketball team defeated Canada in the gold-medal game at the Parapans, 76-43.
Why It Mattered: The team qualified for the 2020 Paralympic Games with its top-three finish.
Fun Fact: The men went undefeated throughout the course of the tournament, outscoring opponents by a whopping 471-217.
What’s Next: With qualification official, the U.S. team is eager to defend its 2016 title in Tokyo.
U.S. Parapan American Team, Wheelchair Rugby
Team Members: Chuck Aoki, Clayton Braun, Jeff Butler, Ernie Chun, Chad Cohn, Joe Delagrave, Lee Fredette, Kevin Hamilton, Ray Hennagir, Joe Jackson, Chuck Melton, Eric Newby, Adam Scaturro, Josh Wheeler
What They Did: Not to be left out, the wheelchair rugby also beat Canada to win the gold medal at the Parapan American Games with a convincing 58-47 win.
Why It Mattered: The win guaranteed the wheelchair rugby team a return trip to the Paralympic Games. It was also a bit of redemption after Canada beat the U.S. for the title at the last Parapan American tournament in 2015.
Fun Fact: The team also just won its first World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge title in just the second edition of the tournament to cap the 2019 season.
What’s Next: The 2020 USAWR selection camp will be held Dec. 11-15 followed by a training camp, then the 2020 Quad Nations tournament beginning Feb. 17.