The U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team secured its spot for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 after a 67-36 semifinal win against Argentina on Friday at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019.
“Argentina is a good team,” said leading scorer Josh Turek. “A team with a lot of fight and there was a lot on the line with this game.”
The men have been unstoppable throughout the tournament so far, handily defeating every opponent (106-35 vs. Puerto Rico, 114-14 vs. Peru, 87-47 vs. Brazil, 81-42 vs. Mexico) en route to the final in Peru.
Eight members of the U.S. squad in Lima are gold medalists from the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, including Brian Bell, Aaron Gouge, Trevon Jenifer, Mike Paye, Matthew Scott, Steve Serio, Josh Turek and Jake Williams.
“Obviously as soon as you start this four-year process, this is what you are working towards,” Turek said. “The pinnacle of our sport without a doubt is the Paralympics.”
The team in Rio earned the U.S. its first Paralympic gold in 28 years.
They’re eager to become back-to-back Paralympic champions in Tokyo next summer, which would mark the first time the U.S. men have achieved that feat since the 1970s.
“To qualify, that’s the next step,” Turek said. “Now we have a year to get ready to and try to defend our gold. There is no question that is our ultimate goal.”
Team USA will be facing neighboring rival Canada Saturday for a chance at winning gold and becoming five-time Parapan American Games champion. The Games began in 1999 and the U.S. men have won every gold medal to date with the exception of 2003, when they fell to Canada for silver
“Qualifying was obviously the number one goal coming here,” Aaron Gouge said. “Now our next goal is to go out there and try to win gold tomorrow. We have a really special group of guys and I feel like it shows out here on the court.”
The U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team qualified for Tokyo Thursday after similarly beating Argentina in the semifinals.