Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
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.

 
US Men’s Goalball Team Defeats “Group of Death” China Team Print E-mail
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by Mariya Abedi  September 9, 2016

RIO DE JANIERO – Team USA’s Joseph Hamilton and John Kusku just kept the throws coming at the Futura Arena in Rio, leading the team to victory against China in their first game of the 2016 Paralympics.

The California-native scored in the first two minutes of the game, tying the score 1-1. But the game didn’t stay tied for very long: Hamilton and Kusku both scored minutes later, with Hamilton scoring on penalty shot, bringing the game to 3-1.

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

 

China made two substitutions in the second half, but that didn’t affect Team USA. Hamilton and Kusku continued to bring their A-game to the arena and scored twice more, giving the team a 5-2 win. Four-time Paralympian Tyler Merren was the third team member on the court; the trio played the entire game without any substitutions.

“To come out here and play flawless three-on-three defense, which is a priority for our defense in this tournament, just really feels great,” Hamilton said of the team’s performance.

Team USA had 77 blocks and threw 91 balls, with Merren throwing 35 and Hamilton throwing 28. Kusku threw the other 25.

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Team USA’s John Kusku plays in the 2016 Paralympic preliminary game against China. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

“We had the perfect amount of energy. We didn’t let ourselves get too up or too down and that’s exactly what you need to do in this sport,” Hamilton added.

The 38-year-old is no newcomer to the game. He was part of the team for the Sydney Paralympics in 2000 and came in 11th place. Hamilton began playing goalball when he was 10 years old. He had partial sight in his left eye at the time but was left completely blind after a snowboarding accident just two years later.

Team USA will be facing Lithuania next, another member of the unofficial “group of death,” which also consists of Finland, Turkey, Japan and the U.S. All the countries in the group are considered medal contenders.

But Finland will have its eyes set on beating Brazil. The two have become competitive rivals in the sport after Finland defeated Brazil in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Brazil reclaimed its glory after beating Finland 9-1 in the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships.

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A referee checks to make sure Tyler Merren’s blindfold is on properly. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

Team USA is meanwhile focusing on one game at a time.

“We’re taking the tournament one day at a time and attacking our challenges as they present themselves to us,” Coach Matthew Boyle said about the team’s strategy as they make their way closer to the quarterfinals.

“We’re really calm and relaxed and are making sure we don’t look too far ahead or focus on games we’ve already played,” he added.

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Team USA’s John Kuska on the court in Rio de Janiero. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

And in women’s goalball, the U.S. team didn’t get a chance to redeem themselves after a disappointing loss to Brazil (7-3) on Thursday, the first day of preliminary games. Algeria forfeited the game after being a no-show, allowing the U.S. team to automatically win.

They have two more preliminary games against Japan and Israel before the quarterfinals. The U.S. team wasn’t able to make it that far at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, and they’ll have to finish in the top four of their group to advance this time around.

Final Scores:

Mens: USA vs. China (5-2)

Womens: USA vs. Algeria (WIN)

Next:

The U.S. Men’s Team will play Lithuania on Saturday, September 10th at 12:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The U.S. Women’s Team will be playing Japan on Sunday, September 11th at 9:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Goalball background:

It’s been half a century since goalball was introduced at the 1976 Toronto Paralympics. The sport was originally designed to help veterans with visual impairment. Players are blindfolded and use a ball with bells in it. Teams of three play two 12-minutes halves.

 
USA Wheelchair Basketball Teams Start Off Strong Print E-mail
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by Mariya Abedi  September 9, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO – Team USA wheelchair basketball teams were on fire on the first day of competition, defeating their rivals in both the men’s and women’s division.

The women’s team set not one, but two new U.S. records in their game against France. They scored 93 points, breaking the last record of 75 for the most points scored in a single game at the Paralympics since 2008. They also won by the largest margin of victory with a 56 point lead for any game won by a U.S. Paralympic team. The record was previously 50 points, which was set in 2004 against Great Britain.

The game was off to great start in the first quarter with Becca Murray and Rose Hollermann scoring 20 points. By half-time, the U.S. was leading by double at 43-21. And France just couldn’t catch up. The team’s defense rallied until the end of the game, only allowing France to score six points in the last quarter.

The men’s team also dominated the court against host country Brazil, playing them for the fourth time in Paralympic history.

 

 

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Team USA’s Brian Bell blocks a shot during the game against Brazil. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

The players got off to a strong start, widening their lead against Brazil to 39-16 by half-time. Brian Bell scored 15 points alone in the first half, some of those free throws.

The Brazilian fans tried to distract Bell and knock him off his game, but that only energized him.

“I was feeding off of it. It’s amazing playing in the arena with that many fans and that much energy, even though it’s against you,” Bell said of the crowd.

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Brazil fans take the stands to support their team. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

By half-time, the stands had filled up to a little over 56-percent. Venue officials said roughly 9,000 tickets had been sold, and the stadium holds about 16,000 people. But the fans didn’t seem to notice. They cheered on the home team for every single point they scored, even though Brazil trailed the entire game.

“That atmosphere was unbelievable. We did get off to a good start, but when they made that first shot and the stadium erupted, it was unlike anything I had been a part of,” said co-captain Steve Serio.

And the momentum of the team didn’t die down in the second half. Serio led the team’s defense with 7 assists and 7 rebounds overall. Even though the line-up changed several times, the team continued a strong offense, with Josh Turek scoring 15 points.

Team USA won 75-38 and inch closer to the quarter-finals.

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Team USA’s Aaron Gouge take a shot in the USA vs. Brazil game. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 

“Our strength is our closeness as a team. We love playing together and training together. We bring out the best out of each other,” said Serio. “It’s our closeness that’s going to carry us far in this tournament.”

Final Scores:

Womens: USA vs. France (93-37)

Mens: USA vs. Brazil (75-38)

Next:

The U.S. Women’s Team will be playing Algeria on Saturday, September 10th at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The U.S. Men’s Team don’t have a chance to rest and will be playing Germany on Friday, September 9th at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

 

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Trevon Jenifer (16) and Matt Scott (9) on the court in Rio de Janiero. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

 
A Well-Deserved Paralympic Gold Medal Debut: Becca Meyers Breaks World Record Print E-mail
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By Orge Castellano  September 9, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO – It was a cloudy day outside Rio, but the sunshine of the Brazilian people inside the Aquatics stadium shined bright as athletes from the entire globe were cheered on by the energetic crowd. In the stands were 21-year-old Becca Meyers’s parents, who were supporting her as she prepared for the S13 100 butterfly meter.

She was only 17 when she competed for the first time at a high level in the London 2012 Paralympics, but back then, no one knew who she was. She was the newbie, an underdog. Nowadays, she has a target on her back; she’s the one to beat.

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Becca’s parents, Mark and Maria, cheer on their daughter from the stands in her preliminary heat. Sept 8, 2016. Photo by Ken King.

Meyers’s parents got more nervous as the night progressed. Her father, Mark, got out of the stands and waited anxiously in the hallway as his daughter was getting into the water. He returned after the race was finished, more tense than his daughter, but Meyers had been more than ready as she’d been waiting for this moment her entire journey.

Her mother, Maria, said that “every fiber of her wanted this; we’re super proud of her,” and that in her mind, Becca knew she was going to make it. That’s why she had been training extra hard for the past year. Her mother recognized the challenges she had overcome.

“She is the only one in the category who is deaf, being the only one who cannot hear the buzzer when it goes off,” she said.“But for her, it’s not an obstacle; she has to rely on the light. It’s the most frustrating part of the race for her.”

Meyers’s strategy came into play when she came from behind after the turn and overtook her challenging competitor Uzbekistani Odilova Muslima halfway through the second leg down. After she took the lead, she achieved the impossible: a gold medal, the title of Paralympic Champion and a new world record in her S13 100 butterfly meter leg with a time of 1:03.25. The crowd celebrated wildly as she entered the victory ceremony, and her mother teared up as the American flag was raised.

Calm but thrilled about her win, Meyers said after the race:“It feels so amazing. I am so excited to win the first gold medal for USA Swimming and we are going to kill it for the rest of the week. I can’t wait to see what everyone else does.”

The night was emotional and the Meyers family has little time to recover from tonight’s victory as Becca Meyers faces the upcoming 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medley all in the S13 category.  There may be no one at these Paralympics who can defeat this fighter.

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Becca Meyers celebrates her incredible win on the podium last night at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Photo by Ken King.

 
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