Chuck Aoki WHEELCHAIR RUGBY
Age: 21 • From: Minneapolis • Twitter: @Aoki5chuck
Aoki's love of sports helps him battle a degenerative neurological disorder that resulted in little or no sense of touch in his extremities.
He ventured to the Courage Center sports camp in Minneapolis at 7 years old, and now plays wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball for the University of Arizona, where he is a national champion.
Aoki was named the 2011 U.S. Quad Rugby Association's Athlete of the Year and named to the U.S. National Wheelchair Rugby Team.
Aoki, competing in his first Paralympics, has had to use a wheelchair since age 12. The loss of sensation in his legs meant he broke bones as a youngster without realizing the damage.
SARAH BINSFIELD WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL
Age: 24 • From: Vadnais Heights
Binsfield, a Wisconsin-Whitewater senior, competed in the U25 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships and the Parapan American Games last year and left with two gold medals.
An eight-year veteran of wheelchair basketball, Binsfield played for the Rolling Junior Timberwolves of the Courage Center in Minneapolis.
When her competitive playing career ends, Binsfield wants to pursue coaching.
ROSE HOLLERMANN WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL
Age: 16 • From: Elysian • Twitter: @RhollerMN
Hollerman will be a junior at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School this fall, but her name is already cemented in the U.S. history books. She is the youngest person to be selected for the U.S. national wheelchair basketball team.
Despite having limited mobility and having to use a wheelchair, Hollerman plays several different sports, from wheelchair basketball and track and field to sled hockey. She survived an automobile crash that killed two older brothers when she was 5. Her mother and another brother also survived, but Rose was left with a badly bruised spinal cord.
Hollermann has won titles in wheelchair events at the Minnesota state high school track meet.
IAN LYNCH WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL
Age: 28 • From: Brooklyn Park
Lynch, who majored in teaching mathematics at Wisconsin-Whitewater, was also on the U.S. team four years ago in Beijing. The Americans lost in the bronze medal game to Great Britain; Australia beat Canada for the gold.
Lynch was injured in an auto accident at age 8. Shortly after, he met women's wheelchair basketball legend Susan Hagel in therapy, and started his road to rolling success.
Lynch played on the bronze medal team in the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation Gold Cup in Birmingham, England, two years ago, and won a gold medal in the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year.
PAUL NITZ TRACK AND FIELD
Age: 43 • From: Edina • Twitter: @nitzp
Nitz is a Paralympic Games regular. An Edina native who now lives in Connecticut, he competes in his fifth Paralympics as one of the all-time great Americans. He won gold in the 100 meters in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.
The senior underwriting analyst at The Hartford competed in Athens in 2004 as well but did not participate in the 2008 Beijing Games because of illness. He will be in the 100, 200 and 400 in London.
Nitz, who graduated from Southwest Minnesota State, was paralyzed when nerves in his neck were damaged because of a breech birth.
AARON PIKE TRACK AND FIELD
Age: 24 • From: Park Rapids • Twitter: @Pikester86
Legendary wheelchair racer and Ironman triathlete Carlos Moleda introduced Pike to wheelchair racing in 1999. It sparked Pike's interest, but that interest in the sport never fully developed until 2007, when he competed in his first marathon.
Five years later, Pike, who is a senior at the University of Illinois, is on the U.S. national team. He finished third at the Twin Cities Marathon wheelchair race in 2010.
Pike, who suffered a spinal injury in 1999, specializes in the 800, 1,500, 5,000-meter marathon and 4x400 relay on the track.
JON RYDBERG WHEELCHAIR TENNIS
Age: 34 • From: Oakdale • Twitter: @JonoRydberg
Rydberg was caught under the tire of a rolling pickup truck when he was 13 months old. He grew up using crutches and was introduced to tennis at the age of 11. To compete with his friends and family, he played with a tennis racquet welded to his crutches. From there, he transitioned to wheelchair tennis. He has been ranked as high as 11th in the world.
"Seeing that success and having fun reiterated that I wanted to do this for as long as possible," said Rydberg, who has a son, Atticus, with his wife, Sarah.
Rydberg, who coaches girls' tennis at East Ridge High School, represented the U.S. at the Invacare World Team Cup seven of the past eight years and participated in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games.
"I've learned a couple things from the past two," he said. "Knowing what to expect, how to qualify and the process of the games themselves, in particular, along with the knowledge of how to approach the games in terms of trying the same things, playing the same way will help me compete again this year in London."
MALLORY WEGGEMANN SWIMMING
Age: 22 • From: Eagan • Twitter: @malloryweggeman
Four years ago, when Weggemann was a senior at Eagan High School, she walked into the surgery room for what was supposed to be a quick procedure but never walked out.
The epidural injection was supposed to temporarily deaden her nerve endings and give Weggemann needed relief from the excruciating pain of a shingles outbreak. Instead, the competitive swimmer, who longed to feel no more pain in her lower back, felt nothing from the waist down.
Now the University of Minnesota student and motivational speaker competes in her first Paralympic Games as a top competitor. Weggemann, who won an ESPY last year for best female athlete with a disability, is ranked No. 1 in six of the seven Paralympic S7 events. The 2009 USA Swimming disabled athlete of the year has 15 world records and 33 American records in a variety of events since 2008.
Her website is malloryweggemann.com.
JUSTIN ZOOK SWIMMING
Age: 26 • From: Plymouth • Twitter: @JZook1016
Zook claimed his first Paralympic gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke in Athens eight years ago and defended his S10 title in Beijing in 2008.
He was born with a club foot and a leg that did not grow properly, and had 30 surgeries.
Now living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Zook started swimming at age 7 and was a captain of the Maple Grove swim team when he was in high school, where he was an all-state swimmer. He got a degree in sports management at Springfield (Mass.) College.
Zook holds an American and Pan American record in the 50 and 100 backstroke and set a world record in the 100 backstroke in Beijing (1 minute, 1.29 seconds).