Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
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.”



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.”

Recap Day Five: Swimming Dominates Medal Count Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi and Orge Castellano   September 13, 2016


It was another day in Rio full of sunshine with high temperatures and top competitions. The U.S. swimming team continued to top the charts, winning five medals in one night.

First up was Becca Meyers, who promised to put on a good show after already winning two gold medals in her first-ever Paralympics. And she certainly did not disappoint.

Meyers set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle S13 category with a time of 4:19.59, surpassing her own world record of 4:21.66. Meyers’ speed was unbeatable; she glided through the water. She broke down in tears at the finish line in disbelief.



Becca Meyers celebrates after breaking her own world record in the 400-meter freestyle S13. Photo By Ken King.



Her parents were at the sidelines once again to support her, waving a massive American flag during the competition.



Becca’s parents celebrate after her daughter’s victorious win. Photo By Ken King.



Fellow teammate Michelle Konkoly also excelled in the pool, breaking another world record for Team USA in the S9 category. The Pennsylvania-native clinched gold after her fingers reached the pool wall at 1:00.91, in the women’s 200-meter individual medley SM6 category.

“It went through my mind, ‘You can do this. You can actually do this,’ and I just went for the wall with everything I had,” Konkoly said. “To look up and see that one red light, it’s amazing.”

Courtney Jordan swam the 50-meter butterfly S7, claiming silver, and winning her ninth medal in the Paralympic Games. She was defeated by 39 milliseconds by the British Susannah Rodgers, who was shocked by her unexpected win.



Courtney Jordan wins the silver in the 50-meter butterfly S7 in Rio. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



Continuing the medal count for Team USA, Bradley Snyder took home another gold. The 32-year-old swimmer finished the 50-meter freestyle S11 with a new personal time of 25.57 seconds, just 30 seconds more than the world record set by China’s Bozun Yang. Yang raced along the army veteran but came in third place.



Courtney Jordan wins the silver in the 50-meter butterfly S7 in Rio. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



Brazil’s Daniel Dias snatched the gold in the 50-meter freestyle S5, beating Roy Perkins. Only two nights ago Perkins shared the podium with the local superstar after a golden victory in the men’s 50-meter butterfly S5 category. However the American was not able to outpace Vietnam’s Thanh Tung Vo as well as Dias, and took home the bronze.



Michelle Konkoly wins gold in the women’s 200-meter individual medley SM6.Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news for the swimmers; Sophia Herzog couldn’t keep up with the powerful strokes of Britain’s Eleanor Simmonds, who finished with a new world record time of 2:59.81 in the women’s 200-meter sm6 final.

And in athletics, Hunter Woodhall and Norman Grace received the two other medals of the night. Woodhall for the men’s 200-meter T44* category and Norman for the women’s 400-meter T44.



Hunter Woodhall runs the final leg in the men’s 400-meter T42-47 final. Photo by Bob Martin for OIS. 



Norman claimed her second medal after winning gold at the Triathlon on Sunday. She crossed the finish line in 1:01.83 for a personal best.

“To make history yesterday with the first paratriathlon gold medal for the U.S. and raising that flag, especially on 9/11, remembering and being thankful for my freedom was just amazing,” Norman said. “Then tonight, to win bronze in the 400-meter was just incredible. I’m just so thankful to represent my country on a big stage like this.”



Dee Smith races in Marina de Gloria on day one of sailing. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



The Paralympics may be four days in, but some sports are still just starting. Sailing day one of competition took off in Marina de Gloria, with six Americans competing in three classes. It may be the last time the team is able to compete in the Paralympics- Tokyo 2020 has taken sailing out of its lineup for the games.

After the day of racing, Dee Smith came in first in the one-person keelboat 2.4mR class. Smith has competed in several high-level races throughout the years, including America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

He was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in 2007, a condition that affected his spine. That’s when he made the switch over to para-sailing.

The U.S. team also came in third in the three-person keelboat sonar class. The team won the Para Sailing World Championships in the same category. Helmsman Rick Doerr is making his second Paralympic games, after competing in Beijing in 2008. Teammates Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund are attending the Paralympics for the first time, but the team has won five medals at the Sailing World Cup Miami.

There will be several races over the course of the week leading to the medaling round on Saturday, September 17th. But sailing is one of the sports that is not live-streamed or broadcasted. Spectators watched from the beach, which families of the athletes were taken out on the water in boats. The race was only available to watch via a live tracking system on sailing.org.

In equestrian we saw good scores for the American women competing in the first test day. Equestrian can be a tough sport to understand, given its complexity. But it has an undeniable riveting factor. For spectators, the key is to understand the close relationship between the horse and its rider as they strive for a perfect harmony in order to reach the maximum score out of 100%.

The Paralympics only has one classification, which is dressage. It features three main events: a team test, an individual championship test, and a freestyle test.



Margaret Mcintosh competes in Rio de Janiero. Photo by Ken King.



Roxanne Trunnel from Richland, Wisconsin, classified to the next test with her horse Royal Dancer, an 11-year-old gelding rubicell 1, with a score of 69.348% in the Ia grade 2. Her teammate equestrian rider Margaret Mcintosh scored 68.087% with her horse Rio Rio.

And in men’s wheelchair basketball, the team remains undefeated as they head in the quarterfinals on Wednesday against the Netherlands It was an intense game between Great Britain and the U.S. as they took to the courts, but the U.S. took the lead and held on to it, winning 65-48.

But it was a disappointing loss for the women’s U.S. sitting volleyball team. China is well on its way to striking gold for the fourth time after beating the U.S., 3-2. Team USA put up a good fight, winning two of their sets 25-14. The game was tied after the fourth set, and China came out on top 15-13 in the final set. The U.S. will be taking on Rwanda on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The men’s goalball team lost another game in the preliminary rounds, this time to Turkey, who won 6-3. After the first half, the U.S. team was down by one, but they could not recover after Turkey scored two more points in the second half.

Recap Day Four: Athletics, Triathlon, Swimming, Rowing Earn Medals Print E-mail
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By Mariya Abedi    September 12, 2016


RIO DE JANEIRO – The Paralympic Triathlon was one for the history books out in Fort Copacabana. Three American women swept the podium in the first-ever Triathlon in the Paralympic Games.

Grace Norman claimed the first-ever gold medal in the women’s PT4 classification, and then Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell took the gold, silver and bronze in the women’s PT2 classification.

The women were ecstatic, cheering and hugging as they stood on the podium receiving their medals.

The course included a 750-meter swimming portion, a 20-kilometer bike segment and a 5-kilometer run. Seely finished on top with a time of 1:22:55 seconds, with Stockwell three minutes behind her.

a13r5858Melissa Stockwell on the course during the first-ever Paralympics triathlon. Photo by Ken King.

The track was on fire in Olympic Stadium, with the U.S. bringing home seven medals in one night!

David Brown and guide Jerome Avery hit the pavement in the men’s 100-meter, breaking away from the crowd and winning the gold at 10.99. They beat Brazil’s Felipe Gomes by a mere nine seconds in the blind race.

Coming across the finishing line it just confirmed to me that, hey, I am the best, and here’s the medal to prove it,” Brown said confidently. I’m a Paralympic champion.”



David Brown and his guide Avery Jerome win the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter T11 race. Photo by Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC. 

Track and field powerhouse Tatyana McFadden continued to rack up her medals, winning her second Paralympic gold medal in the women’s 400-meter T54. Teammate Cheri Becerra-Madsen was right behind her and won the silver.

“Today I won with my heart. I ran for America. It’s September 11 so I ran for the folks back at home and thoughts and prayers for those affected,” McFadden said.“I honor my country today with a gold medal.”

And Deja Young put her all into the women’s 100-meter T47, earning another gold medal for Team USA. The 20-year-old only got into Para-athletics a year ago, when a fellow athlete mentioned she should give it a try.

Rounding out the athletics medals are Kym Crosby with a bronze in the women’s 100-meter in the T13 category and Cassie Mitchell with a bronze in the women’s club throw.

And in swimming, it was team USA’s Colleen Young who came away with a bronze medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke SB13* category. It was the 18-year-old swimmer’s first Paralympic win, and it was the 13th medal the U.S. Swimming team has won in four days.

Jessica Long had a disappointing loss in the women’s 100m freestyle. While Long had the best qualifying time during the heat, she was unable to medal. She came in fourth, just 0.56 seconds short of the bronze. But Long still has several races left in the next week including the 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley.



Jessica Long dives into the pool during the 100-meter breaststroke SB13. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



Meanwhile, at Lagoa Stadium, the weather conditions were nearly perfect for rowing: clear skies and zero wind.

Great Britain dominated three of the four events, winning gold. Team USA walked away with a silver medal in the LTA Mixed Coxed Four category, maintaining their stride throughout the race and keeping the Canada team at bay.

“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.”

Back in the 2012 London Paralympics, the team had come in sixth place and Great Britain had won the gold then too.



Dana Mathewson on the court in Rio de Janiero. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



Team USA’s wheelchair tennis, Nick Taylor and David Wagner were the only ones to win their match. They played against Israel in the quad doubles, winning by 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals. The duo is gearing up for the finals.

“We have a target on our backs. You don’t win them all. We know that coming in,” Wagner said. “We’re ready and do our best every time we step on the courts.”



Team USA’s Jen Armbruster blocks a ball during the USA vs China game. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.



And in women’s goalball, the U.S. team put up a good fight against Japan and came out ahead with a 5-3 win. They’ll be taking on Israel on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Eastern Stand Time. The men’s team also won. They played Finland and scored 6-2.

And in wheelchair basketball, both divisions inch closer to quarterfinals with their wins.

The U.S. women’s team held off the Netherlands by winning 60-50. The European team did put up a good fight, but couldn’t catch up with the U.S. after the women took the lead early on in the first quarter.

And the men’s team held on to their perfect record this Paralympic Games, beating Algeria 92-24. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 27-4, and Algeria wasn’t able to come back.

The men take on Great Britain, the last game leading into the quarterfinals. The last time the two teams faced off, the U.S. had won 61-46.



Team USA’s Jen Armbruster blocks a ball during the USA vs China game. Photo by Michael A. Clubine.

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”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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