On October 29, State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) presented a Gubernatorial Proclamation during the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Homecoming Game to honor the achievements of the members and coaches of the U.S. Paralympic team.
Thirty-one University of Illinois students and alumni competed at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last month. As a paraplegic himself, Sen. McConchie stressed the importance of recognizing the hard work and achievements of these first-class athletes who won eleven gold medals, seven silver medals and five bronze medals in wheelchair track, basketball, tennis, sitting volleyball and rowing. In fact, if the University of Illinois were a country, it would have finished ninth in the overall gold medal count for all competing countries.
“I was honored to present the Gubernatorial Proclamation to these outstanding athletes and coaches,” said Sen. McConchie. “They are an inspiration to all of us and deserve recognition for their hard work and determination.”
Calling the proclamation an “amazing honor,” Stephanie Wheeler, Head Coach for the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team as well as Head Coach of the University of Illinois’ women’s wheelchair basketball team, said it is a recognition of the inclusive and welcoming environment UIUC offers to all students.
“We here at the U of I know what a special thing we have going, but to have it recognized on the state and national level by the Governor shows that they value what we are doing here, and shows that they value what individuals with disabilities can give to our community. Not only athletically, but academically,” said Wheeler. “Once we graduate we go off and do really great things in the world. So while it’s a proclamation for our Paralympics teams, it’s a recognition of the broad reach of our program. Not only does it touch athletics, it touches all of the students here at U of I.”
Four-time Paralympic gold medalist Tatyana McFadden also praised the University of Illinois, noting it says something special about the school and its programs that so many of the U.S. Paralympians are U of I students and alumni, and that such a large number of the 2016 Paralympics medals were won by University of Illinois athletes.
“Being a student here, we have huge support from the teachers and the students, so there is a really nice balance,” said McFadden. “It is definitely an honor to be recognized at the football game at homecoming with all the Paralympic athletes. Being here at home it is really amazing.”
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is home to a 2,100 square foot U.S. Paralympic Training Facility that includes specialized training equipment for people with disabilities. Fifteen of the Paralympic athletes trained at the facility prior to competing at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
The University’s commitment to accommodating the disabled has a long history. It was the first postsecondary institution in the world to admit students with physical disabilities and is home to the first organized collegiate wheelchair basketball and track programs in the world.
Click here to view photos of the presentation.