Five-time Paralympian Matt Scott, one of 12 players on the United States men's wheelchair basketball team, will serve as Team USA's Closing Ceremony flagbearer Sunday in Tokyo just hours after winning his third Paralympic medal.
The 36-year-old was chosen by a vote amongst teammates, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced Saturday. He'll lead about 50 athletes into Olympic Stadium to wrap up 13 days of competition at the 16th edition of the Paralympics.
"I'm overflowing with gratitude," Scott said. "It’s an indescribable privilege to carry the flag that will lead myself, my team and the rest of our delegation."
Scott has functioned as a key member of USA's return to the top of the Games' podium. He and the team finished a respective seventh and fourth at the 2000 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, then took bronze in London and finally gold in Rio – the first Paralympic title for the U.S. in the men's tournament since Seoul, nearly three decades prior. He also helped the team make four straight world podiums: a silver in 2006, a bronze in 2010 and back-to-back silvers in 2014 and 2018.
In Tokyo, Scott and his U.S. teammates are set to take on Japan in the gold medal match less than eight hours before the Ceremony. He will have his third medal come festivities time, but the final's result will determine whether it's a second gold or a first silver.
A native of Detroit, Scott was diagnosed with spinal bifida at birth. He began playing wheelchair basketball at 14 years old, competed throughout high school and was recruited in 2004 to be on the U.S. men's national team. Four years later, he earned a sociology degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In November 2018, he experienced severe septic shock while competing in club ball in Germany and spent four months in the hospital – the first week of which in a coma. About six months later he was back on the court with U.S. tryouts in May 2019. During the 2020 portion of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he and U.S. women's player Megan Blunk, a Rio Paralympian, hosted a virtual workshop for kids as part of the Angel City Games.
The U.S. has gone 6-1 in seven games at this year's Tokyo Games, losing once in group play to Great Britain, the team to which it lost gold at the most recent world championships in 2018. Over those seven games, Scott has amassed 54 points, 33 rebounds and 37 assists, with 16-point and nine-rebound highs against Algeria, and a 10-assist high versus Germany. He's also averaged a plus-12.6 plus/minus rating for the team, with just one game below zero, a minus-four opposite Great Britain.
Japan, Team USA's gold-medal opponent in Tokyo, knocked off Great Britain in the semifinals 79-68. It has been quite the Games for the host nation's team — dating back to the 1990 World Championships in Bruges, Belgium, Japan has not finished higher than seventh in at least the past 15 global championships, missing the quarterfinals in the last five: ninth place at the Rio and London Paralympics and 2018 and 2014 Worlds, and 10th at 2010 Worlds. Suddenly, at the 2020 Games, the nation is assured a medal.
Meanwhile, the Americans beat the 2016 silver medalist Spaniards in their Tokyo semifinal 66-52 in a rematch of the Rio gold final, which had a nearly identical score: 68-52 in USA's favor. Scott had 12 points with five rebounds and three assists.