Twelve athletes were selected to the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team following a team selection camp at Lakeshore Foundation Olympic & Paralympic Training Site this past week. Sixteen athletes competed for a spot on the team to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer and among the selected athletes was Fort Wayne native Jeff Butler.
Butler graduated from Homestead High School in 2019 and, after discovering wheelchair rugby at Turnstone Center, went on to win a silver medal with the United States men’s wheelchair rugby team during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He now lives in Austin, TX where he started his own software design company. Butler also serves as a member of Turnstone Center’s Olympic & Paralympic Training Site Advisory Board.
“It’s a surreal feeling to be selected to my second Paralympic team,” said Butler. “I never could have anticipated the wild ride with the postponement of the games, but I’m more excited than ever to go fight for the gold medal in Tokyo. I’m confident that we have assembled the best team and we’re ready to prove that to the world.”
“We believe that we have put together a great balance of functional athletes that will give us a chance to compete for the gold medal,” said U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Head Coach James Gumbert. “This team is one of the most driven and focused I have ever worked with and their desire to finish what they started is inspiring. During the past year, many of us have experienced so many hardships and setbacks, but these elite athletes have stayed on point and continued to push each other to be the best they can be,” Gumbert added.
Gumbert says the veteran players have been pushed extremely hard by the new talent in the program. He says everyone has embraced the challenge to play to a certain standard and the team captains will lead a seasoned veteran class toward the postponed Tokyo Games.
USA Wheelchair Rugby High Performance Manager Mandy Goff said, “When the Games were postponed last March, we made a promise to each other that we would finish what we started, and we aim to do just that. Over the last 14 months we have gone through a lot together and I think that, in addition to their hard work and dedication, it’s going to be what propels us to the top of the podium,” Goff added.