UW-Whitewater Paralympian meets President Biden, tours the White House

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President Joe Biden shakes hands with John Boie at a special ceremony at Whitewater. (Photo courtesy of the White House via UW-Whitewater)

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

Boie, a Class of 2014 UW Whitewater graduate who also earned an MBA in 2019, is a member of the wheelchair basketball team Team USA and currently serves as an academic advisor at the university.

About 600 American participants from the Tokyo Summer Games and the Beijing Winter Games attended the special ceremony. Boie said the group toured the White House, walked through the East Wing and stopped at the Rose Garden.

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“You could see into the Oval Office and see the President at work,” Boie said. “When he came outside and spoke to us, he told us how proud he was of us and the country.”

President Biden and John Boie take a selfie with a gold medal Boie won at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games. (Photo courtesy of John Boie via UW-Whitewater)

“We believe in America, anything is possible. And you are the explanation of what we mean,” Biden said. “They are — it’s all about ways to break boundaries. They represent the soul of America, and that’s no exaggeration. They really do.”

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

“I positioned myself between the Oval Office and the podium. Suddenly he turns around and comes towards us. Next thing I know he’s standing in front of me and I’m introducing myself,” Boie said. “I led with a John Boy Walton joke and he immediately noticed that we have 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 with the President was surreal. It’s the kind of person you don’t think you’ll ever meet — or come close to miles — so it was cool to make that personal connection with him.”

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Five of the 12 players on the US men’s national team are former UW-Whitewater 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 USA men’s team. Alumna Lindsey Zurbrugg and the USA women’s wheelchair basketball team won bronze medals.

Boie said Team USA caused quite a stir in Washington, DC: “Every resident and business owner knew who we were and they were like, ‘Can I see your medal?’ and wanted to take pictures. We proudly wore our medals and explained to people how the games felt and about the experience – the work, the sacrifices. It was really cool to have other athletes around who understood what was going on .”

Boie will next compete for Team USA in July in Brazil. The qualifiers from this tournament will compete at the World Championships in Dubai in November.

With a determined smile, Boie said: “Everyone is ready for Paris 2024.”

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