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U.S. wheelchair rugby team, including 3 Arizonans, wins silver medal after loss to Britain

After a tough match against Britain, the U.S. wheelchair rugby team -- which includes three Arizona residents -- finished their run on Sunday with a silver medal.
Credit: AP
U.S. players react after losing to Britain in the wheelchair rugby gold medal match at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

TOKYO, Japan — After five straight days of matches, the U.S. wheelchair rugby team took home the silver medal on Sunday at the Tokyo Paralympics.  

Great Britain defeated the U.S. team 54-49 in the gold-medal game of Paralympic wheelchair rugby, the first medal of any kind for Britain in the sport. 

Jim Roberts led Britain with 24 tries — tries are worth one point each — and Stuart Robinson added 14. Tucson's Joshua Wheeler had 21 for Team USA and Chuck Aoki scored another 18 tries. 

Joe Jackson, a Valley native and graduate of Chandler's Hamilton High School, and Tucson's Chad Cohn got to play for the U.S. team up through the final match against Britain. 

The U.S. team said they were "devastated" to lose the gold medal, but congratulated their competitors on a well-deserved victory. 

“It’s heartbreaking but at the same time you are proud to be on the podium representing your country,” said Chuck Melton, co-captain of the 2020 U.S. team. “Great Britain gave us one of the toughest games ever. We had a plan of execution, they counteracted, and we kept going back and forth. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t come out on top today.”

Credit: AP
Britain's players scelebrate after winning the wheelchair rugby gold medal match against the U.S., at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Wheelchair rugby has been an official Paralympic sport since 2000, and Britain’s best finish was fourth place in 2004 and 2008. 

Japan was among the pre-tournament favorites along with Australia. Japan defeated Australia in the bronze medal game 60-52.

The U.S. wheelchair rugby team has medaled at every Paralympic Games since the sport was first introduced in 1996. Team USA won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 after losing to Australia 89-59 in double overtime.

"I’m proud of the guys, and I’m proud of our team,” said Joe Delagrave, co-captain of Team USA. “Our two main ball handlers, Chuck Aoki and Josh Wheeler, were phenomenal, and they played a heck of a tournament. Five games in five days isn’t easy.”

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