UW-Whitewater Paralympian John Boie honored by President Biden at White House

Editor’s Note: The following information was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Flanked by his fellow athletes from the U.S. Paralympic and Olympic teams, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater wheelchair basketball player and gold medalist John Boie was recognized by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at a special ceremony at the White House on May 4.

Boie, a UW-Whitewater alum from the Class of 2014 who also earned an MBA in 2019, is a member of the Team USA wheelchair basketball team and currently works as an academic adviser at the university.

President Joe Biden, standing, shakes John Boie’s hand at a special ceremony at the Whitewater. (Photo courtesy of the White House)

About 600 American competitors from the summer games in Tokyo and the winter games in Beijing attended the special ceremony.

“We toured the White House first, going through the main walkway into the east wing, visiting all the famous parlors and rooms, and then we were led out into the Rose Garden. You could see into the Oval Office and watch the president at work,” Boie said. “When he came outside and spoke to us, he told us how proud he was of us and of the country.”

“We believe in America, anything is possible. And you are the explanation of what we mean. You are — it’s all about possibility, breaking limits. You represent the very soul of America, and that’s not hyperbole. You genuinely do,” Biden said.

Boie had no idea that he was going to meet and shake hands with the president.

“I set myself up between the Oval Office and the podium. All of a sudden, he turns to come down our way. The next thing I know, he’s in front of me and I’m introducing myself. I led with a John-Boy Walton joke, and he noticed right away that we share the same initials. He said ‘JB? They call me JB!’ and we took a selfie, and he congratulated me and we shook hands again. Meeting the president was surreal. It’s the kind of person you don’t think you’re ever going to meet — or be within miles of — so it was cool to make that personal connection with him.”

President Biden, left, and Boie take a selfie with a gold medal Boie earned at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. (Photo courtesy of John Boie)

Five of the 12 players on the U.S. men’s national team are former Warhawks: Jake Williams, Matt Scott, Matt Lesperance, Nate Hinze and John Boie. Christina Schwab, head coach of the UW-Whitewater women’s wheelchair basketball team, was an assistant on the coaching staff of the gold medalist men’s Team USA. Alumna Lindsey Zurbrugg and women’s wheelchair basketball Team USA won bronze medals.

Boie said Team USA created quite a buzz around Washington, D.C.

“We took in all the tourist sites — museums and the Lincoln, Washington and Martin Luther King memorials — and local spots like restaurants. All the residents and business owners knew who we were and asked, ‘Can I see your medal?’ and wanted to take pictures. We were wearing our medals proudly and explaining to folks what the games feel like and about the experience — the work, the sacrifice. It was really cool to have other athletes there who understand what went into all of this.”

Boie will compete for Team USA next in July during a competition in Brazil. Qualifiers from that tournament will play in the world championships in November in Dubai.

With a smile of determination, Boie said, “Everyone’s geared up for Paris 2024.”

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