Abby Dunkin has recently retired from wheelchair basketball. The 24-year-old won Gold in her Paralympic debut with Team USA at Rio 2016. She also became a dominant force within the NWBA Women’s Intercollegiate Division, winning two National Championships with the University of Texas at Arlington Lady Movin’ Mavs. She spoke with Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings to discuss the reasons behind her retirement.
Why did you decide to retire?
“The word retire still hasn’t processed with me yet. At this point in my life, I feel that I am physically, mentally, and spiritually aligned. It’s something that I haven’t been able to say in years, and I can give a lot of thanks to that to wheelchair basketball.”
Do you think you think you’ve made the right decision? If so, why?
“I believe it was the right decision. Although I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it would take on me mentally and physically at first, but I still believe it was the right choice.”
Why did you choose to drop out of the Paralympic team for Tokyo 2021?
“There will never be a perfect time to step away from the sport that I have grown to love over the years, but I felt that at this time it was time to do what was best for me. Although it is hard to look back at all the training and competitions, I’ve been able to engage in all for the end result of Tokyo 2021. In that perspective, my hope is that I’ve been able to help the current team prepare for their journey to Tokyo 2021. This has been the best I have been physically and mentally, and I feel like I’m in a place where I can step away from the game as an athlete.”
Are you retired from the game completely or just the international game?
“In all honesty, as of now just from the international game. I haven’t thought too much about competing domestically.”
What are some of the proudest moments in your career?
“There’s been so many moments. Of course, sharing the top of the podium in Rio 2016 with the US national anthem blaring in the arena while watching our flag raised a little higher will always be a memory I will forever cherish. Along with competing at the 2019 U25 World Championships and being able to witness and be a part of the journey of those athletes being able to wear their respective countries’ jerseys for the first time on an international stage.”
Who influenced you the most in your career?
“Everyone that I’ve been privileged to play alongside, against and coached by has influenced me throughout my career.”
Do you have any regrets?
“I’m content in saying I don’t have any regrets.”
How will you give back to the game?
“The game has given me so much, and I want to give back to the game in any way I can. Whether it’s through coaching, training, or any role that I could have a positive impact on the game.”
Where do you hope the game will be in 5-10 years?
“I hope the game gains the respect and publicity it deserves. The game has evolved so much since I started, and I’m excited to see it develop within the next 5-10 years and beyond.”
What are some of your fondest UTA memories?
“UT Arlington is a huge reason why I was able to have the career I had. Having our women’s team place last at Nationals in 2015, to claiming our first national title in 2016 was something I will never forget. Being able to compete with Morgan Wood, MIkila Salazar, Rose Hollermann, and be coached by Jason Nelms for five years and claim two national titles was unforgettable.”
What are some of your fondest Team USA memories?
“My fondest memories with Team USA are the ones that people don’t necessarily see during the game. It was the off court relationships and chemistry that was built in practice, sport psychology sessions and team bonding trips that I will always look back on. I know the teammates I’ve had in the past were and still are always there for me, just like I am always there for them.”
Who was your favourite teammate in your career and why?
“I don’t have a favourite teammate, as everyone I’ve been able to share the court with has influenced me.”
What life goals do you want to achieve in the next few years?
“Right now, I want to continue to focus on being the best possible version of myself so I can give back to the game in any way shape or form.”
What needs to be done for these goals to be achieved?
“I’m going to keep training, keep practicing the nutrition and mental training that I’ve been able to learn through the years and apply it to the real world.”
What was your style of play?
“My style of play in the beginning was to be that catch and shoot player that would just hang out in the corner. As I was able to learn and be more comfortable with my skills, I was able to expand my style and be someone that could be placed in any position on court.”
Who’s the number 1 player you’ve always idolised throughout your career and why?
“There’s no-one I specifically idolised because I didn’t want to mimic anyone’s game. I wanted to develop my own game and be the best Abby Dunkin that I could be. Of course, I learned from watching so many others, but I never wanted to fully focus on mimicking anyone’s game.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“The best advice I’ve been given would be to do whatever makes you happy.”
Who are the top 3 players in the world today and why?
“My top 3 players in the world today would be my former USA and UTA teammate, Rose Hollermann, Kady Dandenaeu from Canada and Jitske Visser from the Netherlands”
Who are the top 3 GOATs of wheelchair basketball and why?
“My top 3 GOATs would be USA’s Becca Murray and Christina Schwab as well as Canada’s Patrick Anderson.”
What would you like to be remembered for?
“I would hope to be remembered for more than on court accomplishments. Eventually people will forget the about the hardware and championships you won, but people don’t forget how you made them feel. I hope my teammates were proud to call me their teammate, and all of my coaches proud to call me their player. I hope people were able to learn from me just as much as I have learned from so many people that I’ve met in in the game and fans around the world.”
Will you ever come back in the future?
“As of now, I don’t see a comeback.”
Thanks for your time Abby!
Rollt. would like to thank Abby Dunkin for the interview.
Abby Dunkin Profile
Date of Birth: 24/11/1995 (aged 24)
Hometown: New Braunfels, Texas
Started playing: 2013
USA senior debut: 2015 Parapan American Games – Toronto, Canada
Disability: Small Fibre Neuropathy
_San Antonio Parasport Spurs, USA (2013-14)
_University of Texas at Arlington Lady Movin’ Mavs, USA (2014-19)
_2015 Parapan American Games – Toronto, Canada – Gold (USA)
_2016 NWBA Women’s Intercollegiate National Championships – Gold (UTA)
_2016 2nd Team All-American
_2016 Paralympic Games – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Gold (USA)
_2017 2nd Team All-American
_2017 Americas Cup – Cali, Colombia – Silver (USA)
_2018 NWBA Women’s Intercollegiate National Championships – Gold (UTA)
_2018 World Championships – Hamburg, Germany – 6th (USA)
_2019 U25 World Championships – Suphan Buri, Thailand – Gold (USA)
_2019 U25 World Championships All-Star 5
_2019 Parapan American Games – Lima, Peru – Silver (USA)
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl