As one of the oldest, fastest and most popular para sports, wheelchair basketball is expected to gain a lot of attention during the Paralympic Games. Here are 10 players who should make the headlines.
Mayo Hagino (JPN)
For Japan’s Mayo Hagino, a loyal player who has been with the national team since 2010, the Tokyo Paralympic Games represent an opportunity to accomplish something the Japanese team haven’t done in over 20 years: win. a Paralympic medal. This was long before Hagino made her debut in the sport after seeing him in Beijing 2008. She took up wheelchair basketball in 2009 – and made the national team in time for the World Championships. 2010 world, where Japan finished 7th.
After her first Worlds experience, Hagino donned the Japan jersey for the 2011 and 2015 U25 World Championships, where she was named one of the top 5 players. Born with a tumor in the spine that severely limits her ability to move around, Hagino has been in a wheelchair since childhood. She is currently one of only two women for Miyagi Max in the Japanese Premier League – which is one of two teams she has led to a domestic championship. Can she lead Japan to a memorable home title in Tokyo?
Ismail Ar (TUR)
One of the best low scorers in the world, Turkish captain Ismail Ar is one of the most experienced players in the game. Now entering his third Paralympic Games, Ar is looking forward to winning a historic first Paralympic medal for Turkey after a fourth place at Rio 2016. After winning the team’s very first European Championship in 2017, Ar may have finally found the winning formula. .
Ar lost the use of his legs at the age of 16 in the devastating Izmit earthquake in 1999 that claimed the life of his childhood home and the lives of over 17,000 people. He joined his home side in 2007 and was called up to Galatasaray in the Super League in 2009. Captain of Galatasaray for more than a decade, he helped the team win five Champions League titles. However, his fondest memories come from his time in the national team, notably Turkey’s first medals at the European Championships (silver in 2009) and at the World Championships (bronze in 2014).
Ⓒ Hamburg 2018 LOC
Joy Haizelden (GBR)
Haizelden is another Ones to Watch whose talent was discovered at a young age. She started the sport in high school and became the youngest player to represent Great Britain when she helped the team win bronze at the 2014 World Championships at the age of 15.
Since then, Haizelden has helped Great Britain achieve groundbreaking results, including a U25 World Championship (2015), a European U24 silver medal (2019) – in which she was team captain – and medals. silver at the senior and European world championships. They almost added a Paralympic medal, but Great Britain lost the bronze medal match to the Netherlands at Rio 2016.
Haizelden played for the CWBA in the UK Premier League, but next year she will move to Alabama Lady Movin ‘Mavs in the US Intercollegiate League, where she will look to help the team win a third straight title – and an eighth overall – NWBA championship. But first, the 2019 U25 world championship star is hoping to lead Britain’s women’s team to their first-ever Paralympic medal.
Jake Williams (United States)
Few wheelchair basketball players have had success on as many levels as Jake Williams. Recruited at 16 from the hospital where he was in rehab following an accident that left him paralyzed, the 185cm Williams went straight to a local NWBA junior team. He made the jump to the National Collegiate League in 2010 and won the championship with the UWW Warhawks in 2014. Recruited to the national team, Williams helped the United States win Parapan Am gold in 2015 before winning his first Paralympic title at Rio 2016.
Known as much for his game as for his dangerous 3-point range, Williams now plays pro in Germany for RSB Thuringia Bulls, where he has already added Champions League trophies to his collection. He almost added a third in a row in 2021 before falling in a tight final against RSV-Lahn Dill.
Rose Hollermann (United States)
There is perhaps no better player in the world than Rose Hollermann, who will be important as the reigning Paralympic champions USA look to bounce back from a disappointing sixth place finish at the last world championships. At only 25, Hollermann has been a mainstay of the US junior and senior teams since 2011, racking up individual trophies and accolades along the way.
Three-time national junior champion, she led her varsity team, the UTA Lady Movin ‘Mavs, to three national championship finals and two titles. Hollermann won gold with the national team at the Under-20 Worlds (2010), Under-25 Worlds (2011, 2019) and two Parapan Am Games (2011, 2015).
She was the youngest player on the senior squad since her debut at the 2011 Worlds until the 2016 Paralympic Games, where she also won gold.
Gregg Warburton (GBR)
Few players have been on Britain’s schedule longer than Gregg Warburton – and few have been as successful. Prior to leading his country to its very first World Championship title in 2018 – where he was a part of the tournament’s all-star team and was named MVP – Warburton had been an anchor for every junior team in which he was playing.
Competing at an elite level since before being in the Under-15s, Warburton won National Junior Gold (U19), European Junior Gold (U22) and World Junior Gold (U22). This junior success led Warburton to be honored as one of eight standard bearers at the opening ceremonies when London hosted the Paralympics in 2012.
At just 19, when he was instrumental in Britain’s bronze medal race at Rio 2016, he will look to lead the reigning world champions to a first-ever Paralympic gold.
Suiling Lin (CHN)
Since hosting the Paralympic Games in 2008, the Chinese Women’s National Team has grown steadily. Not only did they advance to the round of 16 at three consecutive Paralympic Games, but the team reached the medal round at the last world championships, losing 44-43 to Germany. More than that, the team now has a true superstar – Suiling Lin – who will participate in his first Paralympic Games.
Playing for Guangdong in the Chinese National League, the swift Lin dominated China to win home gold at the 2017 Asia-Pacific Championship. Not only was she named to the All-Star squad, but she was also named named MVP of the tournament. She led her club team to the national championship the following year, before almost winning China’s first-ever medal at the world championships. If China wins a historic medal in Tokyo, Lin will play a major role.
Tom O’Neill-Thorne (AUS)
Practically born with a basketball in hand and a wheelchair under him, Australian prodigy Tom O’Neill-Thorne continues to show why he is one of the best players in the world.
In a wheelchair since the age of two due to a congenital disease at birth, O’Neill-Thorne began playing wheelchair basketball at the age of nine. At 14, he had already landed a job with the Queensland Spinning Bullets of the NWBL – the Australian Premier League. At 16, he finished in the league’s Top 10 scorers.
The national program took note and he has represented Australia at several tournaments, including the U23 team which won bronze at the 2013 World Championships. He landed a coveted spot on the Australian senior team and is became the youngest Australian to play at the Worlds when he helped the team win gold in 2014.
Now an established superstar, O’Neill-Thorne is one of the most successful playmakers in the game. He will look to help Australia improve their quarterfinal outing at Rio 2016.
Bo Kramer (NED)
Bo Kramer is looking to do what no Dutchwoman has ever done: lead her team to a Paralympic gold medal. Always favorites, the Netherlands have reached the Paralympic semi-finals five times since 1988, without yet winning gold. Expectations have grown since the team won their first-ever World Championship gold in 2018 – a tournament in which Kramer was instrumental.
One of Rio 2016’s youngest Paralympians, Kramer, now 22, will arrive in Tokyo as one of the sport’s brightest young stars. She led the team in scoring in two of three games in the 2018 World Championship playoffs to finish second in scoring for the tournament. Already one of the most agile players in the sport – with fantastic shooting from a distance – Kramer has joined RBBL2’s Hot Rolling Bears Essen club team to optimize her training before Tokyo.
Omid Hadiazhar (IRI)
Iranian Omid Hadiazhar is on a mission to lead Iran to its first ever wheelchair basketball medal at the Paralympic Games. One of the most agile and talented players in the world, Hadiazhar led Iran to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Championship before losing to future British champions. The team came close to winning a historic medal when they lost to Australia 68-57 in the bronze medal match. Hadiazhar led the team in scoring in both games to win the tournament scoring title and was named to the All-Star Team for his efforts.
Playing professionally for Valladolid in the Spanish League, the 4.0 player will lead Iran at the Paralympic Games for the second time and looks certain to improve on his 10th place at Rio 2016.