Joshua Wheeler competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 at on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.
They waited five years for this moment, and the Americans weren’t disappointed with the result.
Denied a gold medal in a 59-58 loss to Australia in 2016 in Rio, the U.S. wheelchair rugby team paid the Aussies back with a 49-42 win Saturday in the semifinals of the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The Americans will face surprising Great Britain in the gold-medal game tomorrow. Australia, the world’s No. 1 team entering the tournament, will face host and defending world champion Japan in the bronze-medal match. The Aussies have lost three of their four matches in Tokyo.
“I wouldn’t say it was revenge, but let’s not kid ourselves when we say it was in the back of our heads and it’s something that we’ve been waiting five years for,” said Adam Scaturro of the U.S. “We’ve played them several times since then, but not on this stage. So, having this opportunity at this moment was great, and I’m glad that we seized it the way that we did."
The U.S. will face a challenge in Great Britain, which lost a 50-48 decision to the Americans on Friday at Yoyogi National Stadium in the final game of preliminary round play after leading by five tries. Great Britain is the first European team to play in the gold-medal game in wheelchair rugby.
“They are looking good,” Scaturro said of Great Britain. “They’ve really developed themselves over the past five or 10 years, and now they’re in medal contention, their first opportunity to do something. We’re going to play a great team tomorrow, but I think that if we do what we need to do, we’re going to end up with gold.”
After Friday’s comeback win over Great Britain, Team USA’s Joe Delagrave came away impressed with his team’s performance.
“We never quit. I’m just so proud of this team,” Delagrave said after that match. “We had guys stepping up into a different starting line. It didn’t work well, but they cheered their butts off the rest of the way. That’s a team right there, and I’m just so … proud of the lot of them.”