Josh Turek wins third Paralympic medal in 2020 Games

Three-time Paralympic medalist and AL graduate Josh Turek hit the court one last time in the 2020 Tokyo Games, ending his wheelchair basketball career with another gold medal to add to his collection.

Being able to compete in the Paralympic Games for Team USA isn’t a possibility without determination, grit, and countless hours of practice, though. When preparing to compete in one of the largest athletic events in the world, practice time is comparable to a full-time job.

“Once we selected the team we were moving back and forth from Colorado Springs and the Paralympic training center in Lake Placid, New York,” said Turek. “When we are doing that we are usually on the court about six hours a day, it’s usually two sessions of three hours.”

Turek is not a novice to the Paralympic experience, though. He also competed in the 2012 and 2016 games, which immensely contrasted with the 2020 games due to the global pandemic.

“The 2020 games couldn’t have been more different,” said Turek. “We weren’t allowed to leave at all.”

Not only were the athletes unable to explore Tokyo due to the necessity for confinement, but both the Olympic and Paralympic Games were also held without any spectators.

“It was very odd, almost eerie to play in these enormous stadiums with no one around,” Turek said. “It kinda takes away from the grandiose nature of the sport.”

Although having the opportunity to compete on Team USA is a commendable achievement in itself, Turek felt he could have performed better.

“In terms of my personal performance, I was disappointed,” said Turek. “In the final game, I didn’t score at all.”

Despite the disappointment Turek experienced in the way he played in his final Paralympics, he admires the rare culture the team has established.

“Nobody really cared who played, nobody really cared who scored,” said Turek. “Especially at an Olympic or paralympic level, that almost never exists.”

The positive team environment Team USA created surely had a significant impact on the way the athletes performed and their ability to achieve success.

“Part of the great secret of our success is that we genuinely love each other on and off the floor,” said Turek. “I think what was our greatest savior is we are just such a veteran group, we just never got rattled.”

Turek has dedicated the great majority of his life to the sport of wheelchair basketball. In terms of future plans, though, his athletic goals greatly differ from the rigorous training required to be a professional athlete.

“I’ll probably do half marathons and marathons,” Turek said. “There will be things that pique my interest, but nothing to the intensity and time that it took for wheelchair basketball.”

In retirement from his sport, Turek has big plans for potential future career paths.

“Outside of basketball, I’m really interested in politics,” said Turek. “I’m giving real serious consideration to running for grassroots level politics within the state of Iowa or within Council Bluffs, I’d like to do something a bit more meaningful that you can actually adopt through change.”

Despite the challenging year and a half the world has had to face because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turek expressed his pride in the team considering the circumstances the team has encountered.

“In terms of personal performance, it’s hard to separate,” Turek said. “I’m so proud that we won gold under how difficult it was.”