Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
Recap Day Nine: Women’s Wheelchair Basketball and Goalball Make Podium Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano and Mariya Abedi  September 17, 2016

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It was an exciting night on the basketball court as the women’s wheelchair basketball team crushed Germany, the 2012 London Paralympic Games gold medalist. The game finished 62-45 at the Rio Olympic Arena. The game was entirely dominated by the U.S., with four periods played with strong blocks, several straight throws and minimal faults. Their movements were stable and balanced with massive turnovers and dynamic throws. At the end the women clinched gold.

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Gail Gaeng blocks Mareike Miller (GER) in the second half of the game. Photo by Michael Clubine.

“I think we were a balanced team. We played with incredible composure offensively and defended intensely. Our ability to play with both composure and intensity carried us through,” said coach Stephanie Wheeler.

Rebecca Murray poised herself as the most powerful player on the court, scoring 33 points throughout the whole match, compared to Germany’s Gesche Schunemann, who only scored 13.

“We knew Germany was going to come out for a fight and that it would be an aggressive game. We knew we had to stay composed and not get rattled because of the aggression, and just stay together,” said Murray.

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Jamie Whitmore competes in the women’s cycling road race. Picture by Anthony Edgar for OIS/IOC.

In cycling, Jamie Whitmore took her first gold home at the women’s cycling road race. The 40 year-old finished in a time of 1:30.14 to edge out China’s Sini Zeng and Denise Schindler of Germany.

“I’m feeling fantastic now that I won gold. This has been a life-long dream since I was about six years old and wanting to be an Olympian,” Whitmore said. “I had a very wild pro-career as a triathlete and mountain biker. I thought my dream had ended and then there’s this great thing called the Paralympics, so I got a second chance.”

Jill Walsh, from New York, took part in the T1-2 women’s road race, coming in second in an event that was very challenging and exhausting. It was Walsh’s first appearance at the Paralympics.

“That was hard,” said Walsh. “I could see the number one rider just pulling a little ahead from me. I thought I could make up some time, but my legs were pretty spent by then.”

The final medal of the day on the roads for the U.S. came courtesy of the relay team. Will Groulx, Oz Sanchez and Will Lachenauer combined effort resulted in silver in the H2-5 mixed team relay with a time of 33:21.

Ryan Boyle and Joe Berenyi also competed in the race. Boyle just missed the podium in the T1-2 men’s road race, finishing fourth, and Berenyi finished 10th in the C1-3 men’s road race. Billy Lister was also scheduled to compete, but he had to be pulled out of the race due to a severe fracture he suffered on his left elbow the previous day after crashing his bike on his way to the start line.

The U.S. team will have one more day to add to its medal count as the final day of the road cycling competition gets underway Saturday, September 17th. 

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Deja Young competes in Rio on September 15, 2016. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

In track and field, the gold medals kept on coming. Deja Young won gold in the women’s 200-meter T47 race with her season best time of 25.46. It was the second medal for the first-time Paralympian.

“The first one hasn’t hit me yet, so the second one isn’t going to be in a while either. It’s quite exciting to come out in my first Paralympic Games and compete as well as I did,” Young said.

David Blair won the top for the men’s discus throw F44 with a distance of 64.11-meters, setting a world record after a 16-year hiatus from athletics.

“Before I went into the ring for my last throw, I thought about my return; world record; first place; you’ve got it locked in,” Blair said. “Throw another one for fun, and it was fun.”

Roderick Townsend-Roberts continued the gold medal win in the T47 high jump, with a result of 2.09. And Alexa Halko rounded out the medal count with a silver in the women’s 800-meter T34.

There were tears of joy and celebration on the court after the women’s goalball team won the bronze medal, beating out host country Brazil 3-2.

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U.S. Women’s Goalball celebrate after winning Bronze in Rio. Photo by Michael Clubine.

Jen Armbruster, Asya Miller and Amanda Dennis started off on the court for Team USA. Armbruster scored two goals in the first half; one on a long-arm penalty. The trio stay in for the second half, and Armbruster scored a third time for Team USA.

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Jen Armbruster blocks a shot in the women´s goalball final match, played in the Future Arena. Photo By Michael Clubine.

Brazil managed to get a ball past the U.S. defense with 3 minutes left in the game, but they remained one point behind. The women’s team came in third place overall, a long way from 2012 London’s games when they placed sixth.

“This is so special because we lost in London, and we were favorites to win,” said Dennis. “This time around we worked so hard to get here; we worked four years to win when it mattered.”

In men’s goalball, Team USA faced fierce opponent Lithuania in the gold medal match. The European team managed to score five times in the first half. By halftime, the score was 5-1. The U.S. team struggled with defending the goal, and Lithuania scored three more times in the first three minutes of the second half.

But with the top two teams competing in the game for visually-impaired players, it was still anyone’s game. The U.S. substituted several players and managed to score 7 points in the second half. But in the end, Lithuania came out on top, winning 14-8. And Team USA came away with the silver medal.

“We’re looking forward to some needed rest. We’ve been training hard for a year straight, no off-season,” said Tyler Merren. “We got to close to where we want to be, but we know the gold is out there.”

“I’d love to hear my anthem, so that’s my goal for next games,” said player Joseph Hamilton.

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The men’s goalball team at their silver victory ceremony. Photo By Michael Clubine.

It wasn’t good news for the men’s sitting volleyball team. The team played hard against China and even garnered the support of the Brazilian crowd. But it wasn’t enough. China beat them in all three sets. Overall, the U.S. team lost all four of their games in Brazil.

In swimming, the U.S. clinched bronze in the women’s 4×100-meter medley-34pts final, finishing at 4:50.34. Great Britain took gold, and Australia took Silver.

Paralympian superstar Becca Meyers finished her last race in Rio. This time she claimed a silver medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle S13.

McKenzie Coan, who’s already won two gold medals in Rio, earned her third medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle S7 final. Her world champion teammate, Courtney Jordan, joined her on the podium again with a silver medal. Jordan was emotionally overwhelmed as she embraced Coan on the deck.

“We are training partners; we spend every day together; she lives two miles up the road; she is my best friend,” Coan said. “Having her by my side pushes me, I don’t know if I would be so fast without her.”

Inside the Carioca Arena, Team USA defeated Japan 57-56 in a very intense physical game of wheelchair rugby, lead by Chuck Aoki, who scored 26 points. They’ll take on Canada in the semifinals.

And after several day of races, two U.S. sailing teams will advance to the medal-contending races, the three-person sonar and the one-person 2.4mR.

In the sonar, the U.S. team has been holding onto second place going into the medal races.  And Dee Smith finished first and fifth. He’s currently in fourth place and only two points away from third place.

 
Recap Day Eight: U.S. Paralympic Team Adds Nine More Medals To The Count Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano and Mariya Abedi  September 16, 2016

It was another podium Mc’sweep for the U.S. track and field women as Tatyana McFadden won her fifth gold medal in Rio; this time for the wheelchair 5000-meter T54 race.

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Tatyana starts to make some moves to the 5000m lead. Photo by Ken King

McFadden made her way around the track with teammates Chelsea McClammer and Amanda McGrory directly behind her. The trio took turns taking the lead as they pulled around the track 12 times, but it was McFadden who came around the turn ahead of the pack, bringing home the gold with the time of 11:54.07.

McClammer came in with the silver at 11:54.33 and McGrory was just 0.01 millisecond behind her. The three had also won the women’s 1500-meter T54 race on Tuesday.

McFadden and McClammer continued their medal wins with the 4×400-meter relay T53/54 with teammates Cheri Madsen and Hannah McFadden. The four faced China, Australia and Turkey. China’s team came out on top, breaking its own world record time of 3:40.66 with a time of 3:32.11. The U.S. was about nine seconds behind them, and both Australia and Turkey were disqualified.

The 27-year-old McFadden now has 15 medals from four Paralympic Games. She also won an IPC award earlier in the day for exemplifying the Paralympic spirit.

In the U.S. men’s team, Raymond Martin earned gold for the men’s 1500-meter T52. This is the third medal he has won in Rio. And Hunter Woodhall won bronze for the 400-meter T44.

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Silver medallist Tomoki Sato JPN (left) and gold medallist Raymond Martin celebrate after the men’s 1500-meter T52 final. Photo by Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC. 

In sitting volleyball, the women’s team beat local’s Brazil power team 3-0 in a very tight game for most of the sets which lasted 1h 18m at the Riocentro Pavilion 6, just 15 minutes outside the Olympic Park. The American women secured a place for the finals taking place Saturday 17th when they’ll be playing against a strong contender, China.

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Nicky Nieves blocks a serve in the first set. Photo by Orge Castellano.

Army veteran Brad Snyder had another thrilling night setting his second world record at the games in swimming. He did it by one second beating his previous mark. Snyder pulled away China’s own Bozun Yang who came in second taking home silver and Japanese Keiichi Kimura who got bronze.

“I am real glad to have a world record. Since London (2012 Paralympic Games) the media have been saying I had a world record but that is wrong. I have never had one but finally I do,” said the swimmer after the race.

As for the women Michelle Konkoly, Elizabeth Smith and McKenzie Coan claimed silver at the final 4x100m freestyle relay 34 points at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. When asked about going under the previous world record to win silver behind Australia  Michelle added:

“We all got best times, that kind of says it all; we’re running a 33-point relay in a 34-point event, so the fact that we’re able to go under the (old) world record is crazy.”

In cycling road, four-time Paralympian and navy veteran Will Groulx from Portland, Oregon, won gold in the H2 road race in a time of 1:15.23 at Pontal in Rio de Janeiro. It was an ecstatic performance for the cyclist whose family was in the stands cheering him up frantically.

“I mean my family is here watching. Yesterday was the first time they’d even had the opportunity to watch me racing on the bike, so to do that representing the United States winning a gold medal with my family here to watch is just the icing on the cake.”

Other Americans competing were, Brian Sheridan, Freddie de los Santos, Tom Davis and Will Lachenauer. Sheridan joined Groulx in the H2 road race, finishing sixth after a crash moved him out of the third spot he had been holding for most of the race. Santos joined Sanchez in the H5 road race, finishing sixth overall while Davis took sixth in the H4 road race. Lachenauer was 12th in the H3 road race.

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Christophe Hindricq BEL (left) races ahead of Tobias Fankhauser SUI (centre) and Brian Sheridan USA during the Men’s Cycling Road Race H2 at Pontal. Photo by Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC. 

In goalball, the men’s team played their last game for the semifinals against Brazil finishing with a score of 10-1 at the Future Arena. The match was very heated the entire time with both teams performing incredible shots at each other. The final match will take place September 16th when the Americans will have to face current world champions Lithuania; so far the team has secured themselves a silver medal.

Meanwhile, in wheelchair basketball the women performed an intense match in the semifinals defeating Great Britain 89-78, meaning that they will get the chance to clinch a gold medal this Friday 16th against the Germans at the Rio Olympic Arena.

 
Recap Day Seven: Team USA Brings Home 19 Medals Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi  September 15, 2016

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The cycling track team was on fire in Rio, where the U.S. athletes won nine out of the 19 medals for the day.

It was the first day of competition for the sport, and both the men and women pedaled their way to the podium, earning one gold, five silver and three bronze medals in the time trials.

Shawn Morelli won her second gold medal in Rio, finishing the time trial C4 classification in 29:45.40. And Megan Fisher wasn’t far behind, grabbing the silver with a time of 30:15.72.

Samantha Bosco was out early in the morning on the road, working her way around the course in the time trial C5. The cyclist finished with a time of 29:01.58, winning her a bronze medal, her second medal in Rio.

“Making it to the Paralympics was the cake, medaling in the velodrome was the icing on the cake, and now I have my ice cream,” Bosco exclaimed.

But the women didn’t stop there. Alicia Dana won silver in the H1-2-3 trime trial and Jill Walsh won silver in the time trial T1-2.

The cycling men also had their share of medals for the day. Oz Sanchez won bronze in the time trial H4 with a time of 28:51.73; it’s his third medal in Rio. And four-time Paralympian Will Groulx took away the silver medal in the time trial H2. It was his first time representing Team USA on the road; Groulx has been part of the U.S. wheelchair rugby team the last three Paralympics.

“Cycling wasn’t something that I anticipated just jumping right into,” Groulx said. “I have a fantastic team around me that helped prepare me before the race and even during the race.”

Brian Sheridan also made the podium in the same event, winning the bronze with a time of 33:39.74. And Ryan Boyle won the silver in the men’s T1-2, finishing with a time of 26:49.47.

And over at Olympic Stadium, two American women made the podium in the discus throw F52. Rachael Morrison came out on top, setting a world record of 13.09. Cassie Mitchell was right behind her, winning the silver in her season best time of 12.87.

Alexa Halko won the silver in the women’s 400-meter T34 final with a time of 1:00.79.

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Roderick Townsend-Roberts competes in the men’s long jump T47 final. Photo by Simon Burty for OIS.

 

 

In the men’s division, Roderick Townsend-Roberts beat out the Chinese team in the long jump T47, reaching 7.41 for the gold medal. He danced away, celebrating his win at the end of the competition.

“It was a really tough competition,” Townsend-Roberts said. “I took the lead in the very first round and I was like ‘this jump is not going to win the competition. Someone is going to jump further.’ I was just trying to get my legs round.”

And to round out the medal count, Team USA’s Scot Severn earned the silver in the shot put final F53, making his season best distance of 8.41.

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David Wagner competes in the quad doubles final in Rio on September 13, 2016. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

 

Switching over to the tennis courts in Olympic Park, David Wagner played against South Africa’s Lucas Sithole to battle it out over the bronze medal in the quad singles. Wagner, coming off a disappointing defeat the night before in doubles, had trouble in the first set, which Sithole won.

The U.S. player won the second set and was down 5-2 in the third. But Wagner pushed harder, winning the final set 7-5.

“I never throw in the towel. I never give up. I never say it’s over,” Wagner said. “I fight to the end until the last point. I never assumed that it was not going to happen for me. I just knew that I was struggling early. I was physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, just tired. Just flat out tired.”

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Cortney Jordan and McKenzie Coan compete in Rio on September 12, 2016. Photo by Ken King.

 

 

And in women’s swimming, McKenzie Coan and Cortney Jordan come out on top, winning the gold and silver in the 400-meter freestyle S7. The two held on to each other at the podium as the anthem played.

Coan came in at a time of 5:05.77, winning her second gold in RIo.

“Oh, my goodness that was so much fun,” Coan said. “To be able to go one-two with Cortney, I am really emotional. She is my hero. This is the greatest moment of my career.”

And Tucker Dupress rounded out the swimming medals for the night with a bronze in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S12. He finished with a time of 1:01.04. It’s his fourth medal in his career, but he still has one more event to compete in, the 50-meter freestyle.

The U.S. Swimming team now has 27 medals.

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Matt Stutzman competes in Rio, losing to Brazil’s Andrey Muniz de Castro. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

 

And in archery, it was Andre Shelby who made the podium for Team USA in the men’s individual compound. Shelby had been working for this moment for four years.

I had some doubts; more people had faith than I did,” Shelby explained. “I’m more of a realist. I think if it happens, it happens. I got people back home that have been cheering me the whole way.”

But it was a tough match for Matt Stutzman, who shot an eight on the final arrow, losing to Brazil’s Andrey Muniz de Castro by one point. Muniz de Castro won 142-141, eliminating the U.S. archer in the round of 16. Stutzman, the archer who was born without arms, said he’s looking ahead to his next goal.

“Next up is Tokyo 2020, and that’s what I have to start thinking about,” said the 2012 London Paralympic silver medalist. “Days like today, they happen.”

And making its Paralympic debut, canoeing took off at Lagoa Stadium, where three American women competed in the new sport. Kelly Allen, Ann Yoshida and Alana Nichols all competed in the KL 1-2-3 heats. Nichols and Allen both advance on the finals, but Yoshida was unable to finish the race after falling in the water during the semifinals.

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Kelly Allen competes in the women’s KL3 canoe sprint in Lagoa Stadium. Photo by Ken King.

 

 

“The conditions were a little bumpy, so I was just struggling to stay up,” Yoshida said. “There’s a fine line between balance and speed. If you go for speed, your balance can go off a little bit. And I went over the balance.”

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Team USA’s Kory Puderbaugh takes possession of the ball. Photo by Ken King.

 

 

And crowd-favorite wheelchair rugby started out with the U.S. team playing its first game against France in pool phase B. The U.S. took the lead early, but France fought hard to close the gap.

Team USA kept its defense up, forcing eight turnovers in the first half and leading 26-17. France hit the U.S. hard in the third quarter, but they were unable to overtake the U.S.

Chuck Aoki led with 16 points and ended the game with the U.S. winning 51-42.

“For an opening game with just the enormity of the Paralympics, to be on a stage where so many people are going to see you play is sometimes the biggest thing to overcome,” said Coach James Gumbert.

They’ll be facing Sweden next.

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John Joss III competes in the R6 mixed 50m rifle prone SH1 final in Rio. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

 

On the last day of competition in shooting, Team USA was unable to replicate its success from the day before. In the R6 mixed 50m rifle prone SH1, John Joss finished sixth in the qualification rounds. During the finals, he placed in fifth place with a score of 141.4, with China’s Cuiping Zhang nabbing the gold medal with a score of 206.8.

In other sports, the women’s sitting volleyball team won against Rwanda 3-0. They play Brazil in the semifinals.

The men’s goalball team played a tough game against Germany in the quarterfinals but came out on top with a final score of 7-6. They will take on Brazil in the semifinals. The women’s goalball team won as well, as they faced Canada in the quarterfinals. They shut out the northern neighbors with a score of 2-0 and play Turkey in the semifinals.

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Team USA’s football 7-a-side plays against Ireland. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

 

And Team USA won in the classification match in football 7-a-side with a score of 2-1 against Ireland. Seth Jahn made the first goal in the first half of the game with defense leaving Ireland scoreless. In the second half, Ireland managed to score a point early on, tied with the U.S. But Drew Bremer took a shot and scored, edging out Ireland.

And finally, in wheelchair basketball, the men’s team beat out the Netherlands 70-37 and head to the semifinals against Turkey.

 
Recap Day Six: U.S. Athletes Add 14 Medals Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi and Orge Castellano   September 14, 2016

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The lights were shining bright at Olympic Stadium, where Team USA’s track and field team won seven medals, including a podium sweep by the U.S. women’s athletic team.

Star-athlete Tatyana McFadden added another gold medal to her collection with a time of 3:22.50 in the 1500-meter wheelchair T54 classification. It’s her 13th Paralympic-career medal. Teammates Amanda McGrory (silver) and Chelsea McClammer (bronze) finished milliseconds apart.

“Clean sweep. That was the plan,” said McGrory. “We talked about it before the start.”

It was the second podium sweep by the Americans just days apart; three American women took home the gold, silver and bronze in the first-ever Paralympics triathlon.

Earlier in the day, teammates Martin Raymond and Iannotta Gianfranco both medaled again in the same event – for the second time this Paralympic Games. Raymond took the gold in the 400-meter T52, while Gianfranco earned the bronze.

The training partners and friends had medaled in the men’s 100-meter wheelchair T52 race on Friday; Gianfranco won gold that time around.

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Raymond Martin leads out of the bend with Japan’s Tomoki Sato behind him in the men’s 400-meter T52 final. Photo by Al Tielemans for OIS/IOC.

 

And 19-year-old Michael Brannigan surpassed all expectations, winning gold in the 1500-meter race with a time of 3:51.73, a good 5 seconds before the silver medalist.

“I did what I had to do to represent Team USA and left it all on the track in Rio,” the autistic teen said about his first Paralympic appearance.

Team USA’s Breanna Clark won the last gold medal of the night in the 400-meter T20 race with a time of 57.79.

Meanwhile, the U.S. swimming team continued their streak from Monday by winning six medals, bringing the total medal count to 24 for the sport.

Michelle Konkoly brought home the only gold for the night in the women’s 50-meter freestyle, setting a new Paralympic record with a time of 28.29.

“The 50 (freestyle) is anybody’s race so I just had to go into it and give it the best I had,” Konkoly said.

And Jessica Long won the 21st medal of her Paralympic career, earning a bronze in the women’s 100-meter backstroke S8 in a time of 1:18.12.

Other swimming medalists include:

  • Rudy Garcia-Tolson (silver) in the men’s 200-meter individual medley SM7 at 2:33.87.
  • Tharon Drake (silver) in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke SB11 at 1:11.50.
  • Jessica Long (bronze) in the women’s 100-meter backstroke S8 at 1:18.12.
  • Cortney Jordan (bronze) in the women’s 200-meter individual medley at 3:04.17.
  • Robert Griswold (bronze) in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S8 at 1:04.68.

 

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An emotional Nick Taylor after losing the gold-medal match. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

In wheelchair tennis, Team USA claimed silver after Nick Taylor and David Wagner played an intense and fast-paced match in the quad doubles against the Australians Alcott Dylan and Heath Davidson.

However, in the end they couldn’t keep up with the strokes played by their opponents in the sets. The three-time Paralympic champions, who have never lost a game in their career, were disappointed by their defeat and said they weren’t sure if they’d compete in Tokyo 2020.

“We’ve got to see what happens with the players that we’re having to play against,” Wagner said. “If changes are made, then perhaps. If there are no changes made, then I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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Team USA’s David Wagner hits a ball during the gold medal match against Australia. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

And it was a historical moment at the shooting arena in Rio, where McKenna Dahl won the first-ever medal by a U.S. woman athlete in shooting. The 20 year old earned a bronze in the R5 mixed 10-meter air rifle event, with a score of 635.4 and beating seven other contestants.

Team USA’s women’s basketball team remains undefeated after winning against Brazil in the quarterfinal with a score of 66-35.

The U.S. team took control of the court early on, ending the first quarter 21-4. Brazil worked hard the rest of the game, but they weren’t able to take the lead.

They advance on to the semifinals against Great Britain.

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Hungary’s Suzsanna Krajnyak makes a play against Lauryn Deluca. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

Wheelchair fencer Lauryn Deluca, who was a top-eight finisher at the 2015 Junior World Championship, was unable to overtake her opponents at the Carioca 3 Arena.

She lost four out of five plays in the women’s category A, Épeé preliminaries. The 17 year old had one win (5-4) against the Polish Renata Burdon but unfortunately did not qualify to the finals.

Meanwhile, Team USA took it away in women’s goalball, winning against Israel 7-3. The first half started out strong for both teams, with the score at 2-2 at half-time. But Asya Miller went on the offensive in the second half, scoring all three points for the U.S. team. Israel was able to gain one point but just couldn’t close the gap.

But it was a different story for the men’s sitting volleyball team. They lost their third game in a row but this time to Egypt, who left the U.S. scoreless at 3-0.

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Team USA blocks the ball in a game versus Japan on September 11, 2016. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 
Canoe Sprint Makes its Paralympic Debut Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi   September 16, 2016

Kayaks lined up across Lagoa Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, ready to make Paralympic history.

It was the debut of canoe sprint in the games, and three American women were part of the moment.

“It’s so exciting to be here,” said Team USA’s Ann Yoshida. “We’re making history. We worked a lot to be here.”

Athletes from 26 countries took part in the six events, competing in a 200-meter stretch across the lagoon. The events were divided into three different classifications: K1, limited trunk function and no leg balance; K2, partial leg and trunk function; and K3, trunk function and partial leg function. They use kayaks that are up to about 17 feet long, with a minimum width of 1.6 feet.

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Kelly Allen (K3) participates in the canoe sprint debut. Photo by Ken King.

 

 

Kelly Allen (K3) and Alana Nichols (K2) took to their kayaks for the finals, competing against Great Britain’s powerhouse team who medaled in five of the events. Allen placed 8th in her race, and Nichols came in 7th place.

“I’m just happy to be here,” Nichols said after the semifinals. “It’s one of those sports that takes years and years to be good at, and I’m just starting my journey.”

The 33-year-old elite athlete only started training two years ago. Nichols is participating in her third Paralympic sport, having won gold medals in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing – the first American woman to win gold in both the summer and winter games. She said training for kayaking has been a new experience.

“My first two sports really complemented each other. I was always in the gym creating a lot of core strength around what I needed to do for basketball that transferred over to skiing,” Nichols said. “This sport, para-kayak, is so different from anything I’ve ever done. It’s absolutely endurance-based so it requires a lot of repetition, hours on the water.”

Nichols was introduced to the sport while in Hawaii, where she fell in love with adaptive surfing.

“I love surfing, but paddling is such a great way for people to get out and get out of their wheelchairs and really experience the outdoors. I will forever kayak,” Nichols said.

Hawaii is also home to teammate Ann Yashida, who lives and trains there. She had advanced to the semifinals but was unable to finish the race after falling in the water.

“The conditions were a little bumpy, so I was just struggling to stay up,” Yoshida said. “There’s a fine line between balance and speed in K1. If you go for speed, your balance may go off a little bit. And I went over the balance.”

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Ann Yoshida in good spirits after falling into the water during semifinals. Photo by Ken King.

 

 

Windy conditions made it a tough race for all the athletes, sometimes there was a strong head-wind and other times a tail-wind.

“This Lagoa has so many surprises; just yesterday we had half-foot waves,” explained Nichols.

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Alana Nichols competes at Lagoa Stadium. Photo by Ken King.

 

But despite the outcome, all the athletes were thrilled that para-canoeing was now a part of the Paralympic Games. It was first introduced in 2009 and slowly garnered a following, leading to its own World Championships.

“I think all athletes who are adaptive athletes have to trail blaze at some point to get activities and opportunities out there to be accessible for everyone,” Yoshida said.

Nichols said she hopes para-canoeing continues to grow in the U.S.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go,” said Nichols. “I think we need to be less of a football nation and be more open-minded to other sports.”

 
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