Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
Women’s Triathlon Trio Squad Sweet Victory Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano   September 12, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO – September 11 was a day of remembrance for the athletes competing in Rio de Janeiro. Exactly 15 years ago the 9/11 attacks became the deadliest moment in US history. The women’s triathlon Paralympic debut paid tribute to the USA when the american women hit the podium fiercely winning all three medals in the PT2 category. The race went around the specially-built course in Copacabana Fort, one of the most widely recognized landmarks in the world constructed in 1908 to protect Rio de Janeiro from enemy ships entering Guanabara Bay. It was a strong and fast-paced race filled with sweat and nagging heats rising above 107 ºF. The Americans conquered their opponents in the debut event after stunning efforts in the salty and picturesque waters of Ipanema, then on the bike and on the run altogether. It was a special and a patriotic moment for them, especially for Army veteran Melissa Stockwell who took bronze, beating Finland’s Liisa Lilja just 37 seconds ahead of her.

“My goal was to race my best race and to be on that podium, that last mile was tough but I knew she (Liisa LILJA, FIN, finished fourth) was behind me, someone told me ‘she’s 100 feet back’, but it was hard. I don’t know how far she was back but however far back she was, I just went for it” said Melissa after the race.

“To be on the podium with my two teammates, two of my training partners, two of my very best friends – USA sweep on September 11, wearing a USA uniform, this is one of the greatest moments of my life, I’m so thrilled”

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Melissa Stockwell at the end of the 750 Meter swim and the start of the cycling. Women’s Triathlon PT2. Photo: Ken King

Rio is the second Paralympic games for the Minnesotan, having competed in Beijing 2008 in para-swimming. Fate hit her hard 12 years ago when a roadside bomb injured her and her leg had to be amputated above the knee. Never giving up, after Stockwell retired from the Army in 2005 she began practicing sports again and got involved in several projects for veterans with disabilities. She is an alumna and board member of the Wounded Warrior Project.

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Melissa Stockwell doing a leg transition at the Paratriathlon race. 11 SEPT. 2016. Photo by Ken King

You could feel the hype around the streets as the cariocas, local residents of Rio de Janeiro, waved their arms and shouted words of encouragements to the racers. The women busted their guts putting every ounce of their energy all race along. Allyson Seely proved to be the most energetic. Establishing herself as the lead from the beginning with a strong start, she has claimed the title of Paralympic champion for the first time ever with a large humble smile spread across her face as she ran over the finish line.

“To be able to get my name go down as the first gold medalist for paratriathlon is a huge honor. I want to take it very seriously and it’s incredible”

“As I crossed the finish line I thought it’s been a hard journey with ups and downs and I can’t think of a higher note this could have ended on.”

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Alyssa Seely holding the finish line ribbon for the women’s triathlon PT2. Photo: Ken King

Then there was Hailey Danisewicz, 25, from Wisconsin, who clinched the silver medal. She rode her bike faster than most of the athletes with a total distance of 22.28 km and a record time of 40:13 minutes. Hailey was very calm and focused during her time, appearing almost as if she wasn’t in a world-class competition, but rather an amicable race with friends.

“I can’t think of a better group of people to do it. I’m so honored to be a part of history today.” She said.

“It’s unbelievable. We made history today. It’s been such an honor to be able to represent America, to represent the sport of para-triathlon on the stage for the very first time.

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Hailey Danisewicz crossing the finish line. Photo By Ken King

Given the importance of the sport’s debut, IPC president Sir Phillip Craven awarded the medals in the ceremony, adding:

“The way that Rio 2016, the Carioca have come together here is just what I dream of a Paralympic sport in this reality.”

These athletes have overcome many challenges and made history in lives of women, Team USA, and the Paralympics.

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Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell celebrate their victory as the first winners of Paratriathlon. Photo By: Ken King
 
U.S. Rowing Team Earns Silver Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi   September 12, 2016

The air was perfectly still at Lagao Stadium in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, as Jenny Sichel and her four teammates waited in their rowing boat at the starting line, oars in hand.

The Clifton-native, along with the rest of the U.S. para-rowing team, had been working towards this moment for years: a chance at winning a medal in the Paralympic Games. And 3:19.61 seconds later, her dream came true.

The team placed second in the LTA4+ mixed coxed four race, earning the silver medal. Sichel, as the coxswain of the crew, steered the team across the finish line for the 1000-meter event.

“It’s a bit of mixed emotions,” the 28-year-old said after the race. “I’m obviously really proud that we came in second place representing the U.S., but I’m also disappointed that we didn’t come in first.”

The U.S. team started out in first place after 250-meters, but was edged out by Great Britain for the gold. They kept their momentum going the rest of the way, maintaining their number two position with each stroke. Sichel says she doesn’t have any regrets about the team’s performance on the water.

“I definitely believe we did the best we could, and everyone on the team did their job for their seat. Our game plan was to go out there and just row our race, and that’s what we did,” said Sichel with her beaming mom by her side.

“I just can’t even express how I’m feeling right,” said Sharon Sichel. “We’ve been with her on this journey for several years, and just to see how this team has improved and worked together has been incredible.”

It was a family affair in Rio for Sichel. Her mom, dad and brother made the trip down to Rio to see her compete. Sichel’s brother, William, said there’s nowhere else they would be.

“Being able to be here and cheer her on in person has been so incredibly exciting,” he said. “Watching her get the medal put around her neck was just an amazing feeling.”

Sichel’s parents rushed to meet her after the medal ceremony, and her dad snapped away on his camera, not wanting to miss a single moment.

“It’s been a long road. They’ve been working really hard,” he remarked. “It’s just so nice to see them finish with a medal.”

It was ten years ago when Sichel first picked up an oar while she was a freshman at Bryn Mawr College. She credits her competitive nature for making varsity as a novice and then continued to push herself to become a better rower, leading to multiple collegiate awards.

But after an injury left her with two herniated discs, she was physically unable to row and decided to try coxing, which she soon started to excel at. In 2014 and 2015, Sichel and her team won silver at the World Champions for the same race as the Paralympics.

The LTA4+ mixed category consists of female and male athletes who are visually or physically impaired but can use their leg, trunk and arms to row. Sichel became involved with para-rowing after meeting a coach during a college summer camp.

“The second I was introduced to para-rowing, I was hooked. I haven’t looked back,” Sichel said. “I want to keep promoting it. Our athletes are amazing, and I can’t say enough about them.”

Sichel said she hopes to get more people interested in para-rowing and get them to give the sport a try.

“It’s up and coming. The fact that we got silver shows a lot and eventually, it’s going to be big in the U.S.,” Sichel said.

And then she paused.

“I guess getting a silver medal in your first Paralympics isn’t so bad,” she laughed.

 
USA’s First Bronze Glory In Judo At Rio Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano  September 11. 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO – Despite a strong culture of mixed martial arts and increasing growth across the nation, Judo is not a popular sport in the U.S.  There aren’t many famous judokas, whereas in Eastern Europe and Asia, athletes are well-praised and considered heroes for the difficulty of the sport.

Therefore, something magical happens when two divisions of U.S. athletes perform significantly well at the Paralympics. In the men´s 90-kg event, Dartanyan Crockett from Cleveland crushed rival and Great Britain’s medal-hopeful and 2012 Paralympic silver medalist Samuel Ingram. Crockett won with a difference of two yukos.

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Crockett holds down his opponent Samuel Ingram from Britain at the Carioca 3 arena. Photo by Ken King.

The match lasted a full five minutes at the Carioca 3 arena in front of a spry crowd. Crockett competed in the visually impaired category B3. He was born with Leber’s disease, which causes acute visual loss. Crockett has been severely near-sighted his entire life. He learned the hard way that action and discipline are required to overcome something, and through the years, he’s gotten tougher and stronger.

“People told me I couldn’t do a lot of things because of my vision,” he said. “I believe there is nothing I can’t achieve. Failure only comes if you let it,” he told goodsportstories.com back in 2009.

It was not an easy win for him. He came through two repechage bouts with competitors from Uzbekistan and Georgia. In the end, he conquered with a bronze medal and the second Paralympic title of his career.  In tears when his coach Eddie Liddie hugged him, the two relished the breathtaking moment.   

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Eddie Liddie, Crockett’s coach hugs him emotionally after his victory game. 10 SEPT. 2016. Photo by Ken King

On the women’s side, Cristella Garcia from Santa Fe, New Mexico, overtook Brazil’s favorite Silva de Almeida Deanne with a Yoko-shiho-gatame* technique in the 70-kg division belonging to the B1 category. She bested her competitor and secured her first bronze medal in the Paralympic games.

“I’m feeling pretty amazing right now; I don´t think there’s a cooler feeling as getting a medal” said the judoka.

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Cristella Garcia celebrates passionately after winning over Brazil’s own Silva de Almeida. Photo By Ken King.

When asked about the challenge of competing against a local contender, she said,“She’s definitely a really strong competitor; she had the crowd behind her, but I really believed that I was going to win this match so I never stopped trying.

“I loved the energy of the crowd; it was a death match for me I just had fun with it,” Garcia added.

On her next endeavors: “I’m pretty optimistic about the future. I told my coach that I was going to get the Agitos tattooed after tonight’s win.”

Both Athletes train with the same couches Eddie Liddie and Scott Moore.

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Cristella Garcia poses at the victory podium after clinching a bronze medal. Photo By Ken King.

*A YOKO-SHIHO-GATAME IS A SIDE FOUR CORNER HOLD TECHNIQUE WIDELY USED IN JUDO. IN GRAPPLING TERMS, IT IS CATEGORIZED AS A SIDE CONTROL HOLD.
 
Recap Day Three: Team USA Racks Up 12 Medals Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano and Mariya Abedi   September 11, 2016

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RIO DE JANEIRO – It was out on the track at Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro where the day’s first three medals were won for Team USA.

Raymond Martin and Gianfranco Iannotta both medaled in the men’s 100-meter T52* wheelchair race. It only took seconds for Iannotta to push himself into the lead, winning the gold in 17.17 seconds. And right beside him was his training partner, Raymond Martin, who snagged the silver medal in 17.25 seconds.

“It’s always a challenge going against Ray,” Iannotta said of his teammate, who he’s been training with since they were both 10 years old. “He’s an incredible racer, very fast, very resilient. I knew it was going to be a challenge from the start.”

Martin won the gold in the London 2012 games but was thrilled Iannotta came out on top this time around.

“I feel so excited for him,” Martin said. “I have seen him come up through the ranks and I couldn’t be more pleased for him.”

And Kerry Morgan made her personal best time in women’s 400-meter T52* wheelchair race, winning the bronze medal. The 42-year-old had previously won bronze in the London 2012 games, but in the 100-meter and 200-meter races.

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Kerry Morgan wins the bronze medal in the women’s 400-meter T52 wheelchair event. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

During the evening session, 16-year-old Alexa Halko came away with the bronze in the women’s 100-meter T34* competition. The first-time Paralympian was unable to take on Great Britain’s Hannah Cockroft and Kare Adenegan, who came in first and second.

And U.S. Swimming continued to dominate in the pool, winning four gold medals and two silver medals.

Swimmers Elizabeth Marks, Jessica Long and Mallory Weggemann competed in three lanes next to one another in the 100-meter breaststroke SB7* category. But it was Marks and Long who kept their stride going till the very end; Marks set a new world record and came in first with a time of 1:28.13 seconds. But it wasn’t until the very end that she realized she was in the lead.

“I can’t see when I am swimming,” Marks said. “About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is; as long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well.”

Teammate Jessica Long trailed Marks by 4.81 seconds, winning the silver medal. Long had won the gold in this event four years ago in London, but said she’s glad another U.S. swimmer came in first.

“I’m really happy; I’m really excited,” said a breathless Long after the race. “To win the silver and see my teammate right next to me win the gold is amazing.”

And the women kept bringing on the wins. It was another gold for the elite para-swimmer from Maryland, Becca Meyers. She attempted the 200-meter individual medley in the SM13* category, striking another outstanding victory with a time of 2:24:66 seconds.

“That was my goal,” Meyers said confidently. “I’m glad I finished first. A lot of hard work went into that race, so I’m really pleased with the outcome.”

The second Meyers entered the stadium, the excitement and the emotion of the crowds grew exponentially. Her parents were frantically cheering her on from the stands, with a big poster board picture of her daughter. They high-fived every celebration throughout the night, quickly making new Brazilians friends.

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Becca Meyers at the finish line after claiming her second gold in Rio. Photo by Ken King.

 

But Meyers isn’t done just yet. She can still take home another medal this Monday in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S13* category.

Over in men’s swimming, Roy Perkins claimed gold in the 50-meter butterfly S5* category, surpassing China’s Shiwei He as well as Daniel Dias, Brazil’s local powerhouse. Dias has been continuously hitting the podium in the last few days, but this time, he took home a bronze medal.

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Gold Medalist, Roy Perkins, congratulates Shiwei He (China) in the men’s 200-meter butterfly. Photo by Ken King.

 

“I have worked for four years to be able to beat him. I knew during those years that to do it in front of his home audience would be a big deal,” Perkins said about beating Dias. “The whole building was shaking; I think the water was probably shaking,” he said.

And in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S11* category, U.S. veteran Bradley Snyder, took home his second medal this year, winning gold with a 12.18 second lead. Teammate Tharon Drake came in second.

Snyder lost his eyesight after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in the US Navy in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011. It’s not the first time he’s experienced the feeling of a gold medal win. In the 2012 London Paralympics, the swimmer won two gold medals and one silver medal.

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Bradley Snyder dives into the pool at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio. Photo By Ken King.

 

And in judo, Team USA medaled in both the women’s division and men’s division. In the men´s 90-kg event, Dartanyan Crockett from Cleveland crushed Great Britain’s medal-hopeful and 2012 Paralympic silver medalist Samuel Ingram in the final round, winning with a difference of two yukos. Crockett took home the bronze.

On the women’s side, Cristella Garcia from Santa Fe, New Mexico, overtook Brazil’s favorite Silva de Almeida Deanne in the 70-kg B1* division. Garcia won the bronze, her first medal in the Paralympic Games.

“I’m feeling pretty amazing right now; I don´t think there’s a cooler feeling as getting a medal,” said the judoka.

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Dartanyan Crockett battles Samuel Ingram for the bronze medal in judo. Photo by Ken King.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Wheelchair Tennis team is setting a strong foundation in Rio; the women’s seed played excellent rounds all around.

The U.S. women got off to a good start with Dana Mathewson having full control of the ball the entirely match and serving strongly against Great Britain’s Louis Hunt. Mathewson won 6-1, 6-4 with a fantastic combination of speed and spin.

Shelby Baron fought the court with solid ground strokes finishing over Italy’s Lauro Marianna with an overall set score 6-1, 6-4.

Emmy Kaiser was not able to battle past Famin Charlotte from France and lost 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

And U.S.’s Kaitlyn Verfuerth tried to keep up with the strong and fast service served by Netherland’s Jiske Giffioen. But in the end, Giffioen won the match with 6-1, 6-1 points.

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Kaitlyn Verfuerth plays a forehand stroke in the Olympic Tennis Court in Rio. Photo By Ken King.

 

Team USA took on Iran in three sports today, winning sitting volleyball (3-0) and wheelchair basketball (93-44). But the U.S. lost to them in football 7-a-side (0-2).

And in table tennis, the U.S. men’s team tried to redeem themselves after Friday’s disappointing loss against China. Tahl Leibovitz beat both Hungary (3-0) and France (3-2) but then lost to Belgium’s Devos Laurens in the quarterfinals.

Saturday also made Paralympic history: the first triathlon was held.

Team USA’s Christopher Hammer (PT4 classification) came in fourth with a time of 1:03:14 seconds, about 37 seconds short of the bronze. The 11 athletes started with a 0.75-kilometer swim and then transitioned into the bike portion. Hammer was in seventh place at the end of the biking segment, but he was able to push ahead by the end of the 5-kilometer run.

Mark Barr, who has competed in swimming at previous Paralympics, also placed fourth in triathlon, but in the PT2 classification. Barr was in the lead after the swimming segment and maintained a fifth position until the final leg of the run, when he passed by France’s Stephane Bahier and finished in 1:12:51 seconds. The women’s triathlon takes place on Sunday.

 
Recap Day Two: Team USA Claims Six More Medals Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi and Orge Castellano  September 10, 2016

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – It was another cloudy day in Rio, but the U.S. continued to build their medal count on day two of competitions. Six medals were awarded across swimming, cycling and athletics, but U.S. remains in fourth place with 14 medals total.

The U.S. Swimming team saw the only gold medal for the day with McKenzie Coan winning the 50-meter freestyle in the S7* category, beating Germany and Canada with a time of 34.07. 

“My secret weapon is about 20 minutes before I have peanut butter with normal Cheerios,” Coan said after winning her first international gold medal. “It sounds weird, but it is really good.”

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Jessica Long celebrates her bronze win after completing the 100-meter butterfly S8 final. Photo by Ken King.

And four-time Paralympian  Jessica Long added a bronze medal to her silver from yesterday for the women’s 100-meter butterfly, missing the silver medal by 0.21 milliseconds. She came in at 1:10.32.

Fellow swimmer Bradley Snyder tied with Poland’s Wojciech Makowski for the silver medal in the men’s 100-meter backstroke in the S11* category with a time of 1:08.28. And Ukraine’s Dmytro Zalevskyi snagged the gold and set a world record of 1:06.66.

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Joe Berenyi poses on the medal podium during the victory ceremony for the men’s individual C3 pursuit cycling. Photo by Ken King.

In cycling,  Joe Berenyi clinched a silver medal in the C3* 3000-meter individual pursuit final, defeated by contender David Nicholas (AUS) by 2.058 seconds. Berenyi’s final time was 3:34.394. It’s his fourth Paralympic medal of his career.

The Illinois cyclist came to Rio to dominate the track in his sprint category. The 47 year old was hurt in a work-related construction accident back in 1994. His right arm had to be amputated as a result.

“It is disappointing to lose in the gold medal round, but to win a medal in my second games is great,” Berenyi said. “It is a result of a lot of hard work; it’s never a bad thing to get a silver.”

Meanwhile, medal-hopeful Billy Lister was not able to qualify at the C1 3000-meter individual race. He crossed the finish line in sixth place, but the journey isn’t over for him yet. He’ll be competing in the C1-2-3 100-meter cycling on September 10th and cycling road.

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Team USA’s Joseph Hamilton blocks a ball in the USA vs China game. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

The U.S. Athletics team also celebrated some victories today. First-time Paralympian Sam Grewe won silver in the men’s high jump T42,* classification. The 18-year-old athlete lost his leg in 2012 to bone cancer.

The men’s goalball team had a great start in their first preliminary game against China. They won 5-2, with only three of the six team members playing the entire time. And women’s goalball automatic won after Algeria forfeited the game.

In men’s wheelchair basketball, Team USA continued to play strong, defeating Germany, 77-52, making their way towards the quarterfinals. They’ll be playing the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday.

And several U.S. players passed their first round in wheelchair tennis. Steve Baldwin won 2-1 against Brazil’s Rafael Medeiros in the men’s singles. And Dana Mathewson and Kaitlyn Verfuerth won 2-0 against host country Brazil in the women’s doubles.

In men’s table tennis, China swept the table as they usual do. It wasn’t a surprise for the Americans, who knew they were playing against a fierce competitor. China’s powerhouse player, Ma Lin, beat Tahl Leibovitz, winning the three sets. The entire game lasted under 15 minutes. He won points on 17 serves, while Leibovitz’ won nine.

Host nation Brazil won by wide margin over USA in the sitting volleyball preliminaries, scoring 75 to 45. The U.S. players fought until the very last second, but it wasn’t enough. Team USA can still rebound from the lost match, and there’s still plenty of time to forge ahead in the next couple of days.

*S1-10 indicated physical impairment. There are ten different sport classes for athletes with physical impairment, numbered 1-10. A lower number indicates a more severe activity limitation than a higher number.

*C 1-5 categories refer to those athletes with cerebral palsy, limb impairments and amputations. The classification system allows cyclists to compete against others with a similar level of function.

 
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