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MU Wheelchair Basketball Coach Wins Gold in Rio

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The coach of the MU wheelchair basketball team led the USA men’s wheelchair basketball team to a gold medal after defeating Spain by a score of 68-52 at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

MU wheelchair basketball coach Ron Lykins is no stranger to Paralympic medals. Lykins coached the women’s wheelchair basketball team to one silver medal in 1992 and two gold medals in 2004 and 2008. After his first win with the men’s team, Lykins looks forward to bringing back the lessons he learned in Rio to the MU wheelchair basketball team.

“Now I just got done coaching the best team I’ve ever been associated with, with players that are as good as I’ve ever seen,” Lykins said.  “The stuff that we tried with our staff and how we tried to piece this team together are all things that I can take back and try to do here at Mizzou.”

Lykins was not the only Tiger that made the trip to Rio. MU wheelchair assistant basketball coach Scott Meyer joined Lykins as a part of the U.S men’s wheelchair basketball team. Meyer says he felt humbled by the opportunity to represent his country in Brazil.

“It was an amazing opportunity, being able to represent your country and, then, participate in something you’re truly passionate about,” Meyer said. “It was just amazing from top to bottom.”

The two gold medal coaches returned to Columbia with their sights set on preparing for the upcoming wheelchair basketball season. However, the potential for the sport’s popularity is growing rapidly.

Associate director of programs Laura Salerno says wheelchair basketball’s fun and excitement can draw in plenty of fans.

“I really think if we get people to come and watch, they will fall in love with the sport,” Salerno said.

Salerno says media coverage for the Paralympics have already increased dramatically, and the statistics would agree.

NBC Universal and the United States Olympic Committee aired 66 hours of Paralympic coverage in Rio, according to team USA’s official website. In comparison, the London Paralympics received 60.5 less hours of coverage.

The MU wheelchair basketball season begins in October. Their first tournament will be on Oct. 21 and their first home tournament will begin on Nov. 5.

Lykins looks forward to seeing more people at the upcoming games due to the increased popularity. After all, Lykins says his team is just another basketball team representing MU.

“[People] just need to realize you have men’s basketball, you have women’s basketball and you have wheelchair basketball—the common theme is basketball,” Lykins said.