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Published on September 11th, 2016 | by mpower

U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team: Spotlight on the Rookies

By: Isil Tanyeri

The U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team improved to 3-0 on Saturday with a trio of dominating performances against Brazil, Germany and Iran. Mpower Sports caught up with three players making their Paralympic debut to ask of their Rio stay thus far.

For anyone who becomes a part of the Paralympic experience, whether as a fan or an athlete, it can easily become overwhelming and at times disorienting. Jake Williams, 25, keeps his focus on the task with all the attention that comes with the largest Paralympic Games in history: “You can get caught on the atmosphere and on the crowd so easily here and lose your focus.” Williams was extra focused on Germany in a 75-52 win on Friday as he plays professionally in Hamburg. “I was familiar with their style and they were familiar with mine. It was a lot of fun,” he shares. Off the court, the Milwaukee native credits the volunteers. “Everyone has been great so far. Volunteers are so kind to all of us. The transition couldn’t have been smoother.”

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Jared Arambula, a 26-year-old from Merriville, Indiana, has been awed by the experience thus far. “I didn’t know it would be this incredible. I knew it would be a lot of fun, but not this much.”

A current professional wheelchair basketball athlete in Italy, Arambula has been playing wheelchair basketball for 21 years. He is planning to take a break from his basketball career after the Paralympic Games. “I’m 26 going on 50, so I’m definitely tired. Ready to rest and weigh my options. I have an elementary school education degree, so I will have to get a job probably, who knows.”

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The wheelchair design is key to the success in any adaptive sport, and wheelchair basketball is no exception where speed and stability always play a key role. Nowadays, most wheelchairs can be custom-made providing a much better fit for athletes, taking into account athlete’s weight and height. “This is the best chair I’ve ever had in my life,” Aaron Gouge shared with pride.

Gouge, a North Carolina native, says he was surprised when so many fans showed up to the early morning game against Germany on Friday. “I was not expecting to see that many people out there at 9 am on a Friday. It was pretty special!”

Arambula added, “Kids going crazy and Germans going crazy. That game against Brazil, oh man that was overwhelming, but so good!” Players are quick to notice the fan support from afar. Williams said, “Every time, we go back to the Village and get Wifi, we have a lot of messages, people commenting. People wake up early to watch the games. We really appreciate the support!”

The U.S. next meet Algeria on Sunday at 6pm. Meanwhile, Mpower Sports will be checking up with the women’s wheelchair basketball team, also off to a strong start. Stay tuned!

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