From the desk of Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs
I sat down this week with Mizzou Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Coach Ron Lykins to talk about his experience coaching the United States men’s wheelchair basketball team to their second consecutive gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer. I asked him how it felt for his team to be the reigning world champion.
“It’s very satisfying to know that all the work and sacrifices the players made helped them reach that goal,” he said.
Lykins praised his hosts in Japan, particularly the volunteers, who were “very friendly, very helpful, very enthusiastic about hosting the games,” he said. “No one had a bad day there.”
Lykins’ team started the tournament by defeating Germany, Iran, Great Britain, Australia and Algeria to emerge the victors in their group. After besting Turkey in the quarterfinals and Spain in the semifinal, it was down to a gold medal match against Japan.
The final was a fourth-quarter clencher against hosts Japan. Japan was leading 56-51 with five minutes 39 seconds left on the clock, but USA scored the next eight points to take control of the game and win.
“It was a pretty great feeling,” Lykins said, with characteristic understatement. “Organizers had started letting some spectators in to watch the games, so the atmosphere was really neat. It may have been better had there been a full arena, but if it was full, we might not have been successful because Japan would have fed off that energy.”
After he recovers from jet lag, Lykins plans to go back and watch games he couldn’t catch in Tokyo. He was particularly interested in seeing how Mizzou player Collin Higgins performed playing for Canada, which finished in eighth place.
Lykins said he was bringing home lessons he had learned how other teams played the game. But the most important lesson, he said, was “Enjoy your moment. Be thankful for the opportunities that you have because you don’t know when they will come up or when they will be taken from you.”
“My hope is that people watched that and really enjoyed it so that they will watch us play here,” Lykins said, pointing out that Mizzou men’s wheelchair basketball program is one of only 12 such collegiate programs in the world.
“They can still support sport for persons with disabilities by watching our program here,” he said. “Who knows? There are guys playing for Mizzou now who will be on international teams in the future.”