Jessica Long celebrates on the podium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Lots and lots of medals
The good news for Trischa Zorn? The 55-figure swimmer’s incredible Paralympic Games medal record is pretty sure for a while. Swimmer Jessica Long tackles it slowly but surely. After making his Paralympic debut in 2004 at the age of 12, Long won his 23rd medal in Rio. She is now the second most decorated American athlete and the most decorated active athlete, and with no less than seven events on the schedule for the Baltimore native of Tokyo, the 29-year-old could close that gap a little more on Zorn. .
Of Jessica Long’s 23 medals, there are 13 gold medals, the highest number among any Americans traveling to Tokyo. She is one of six Americans to have at least three gold medals. Tatyana McFadden is not far behind Long with 17 medals in total, including seven gold. All but one came to the piste, with the one exception being a silver medal in 2014 in Nordic skiing. The one gold medal that has proven elusive for McFadden is the marathon, an event she dominated outside of the Games with multiple wins in all major races. Track star Raymond Martin is particularly golden, with six of the seven medals he has won since 2012 being gold. Brad Snyder has won five gold medals (and seven in total) in the pool in the last two Paralympics, and now he will be looking for his first as a paratriathlete in Tokyo. And you can’t mention Team USA’s great Paralympians without shouting David Wagner, the quad player who has won a medal in both singles and doubles at each of his previous four Games. He is one of three Team USA gold medalists, joining swimmer McKenzie Coan (four medals in total) and discus thrower Jeremy Campbell.
Getting strong from Atlanta
The dream of the 90s is alive in Tahl Leibovitz. The Queens, New York table tennis star is the only U.S. team athlete whose Paralympic Games experience dates back to 1996 in Atlanta. In five Paralympic Games, the United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame has won one gold and two bronze. He is one of four American athletes who will compete in the Sixth Paralympic Games in Tokyo, joining goalball players Lisa Czechowski and Asya Miller, and athletics star Tatyana McFadden.
The master of multiple sports
Upon arrival in Tokyo, 12 American athletes competed in more than one sport at the Paralympic Games. No one can beat Oksana Masters. She made her Paralympic debut in 2012, winning a bronze medal in rowing. Since then, she has won seven more medals in cross-country skiing and biathlete. Tokyo will be the second Masters Paralympic Games as a hand cyclist. And she’ll be looking for her first medal in the sport after finishing fourth in the road race and fifth in the road time trial in Rio. The only other American athlete with three sports under her belt is her boyfriend, Aaron Pike, who has competed in two Winter Games in cross-country skiing and biathlon and is now competing in his third Summer Games as a marathoner.
New to the multisport club
This list of multisport stars will receive new members in Tokyo. Blake Haxton is the only American athlete to compete in two sports in Tokyo. Paralympian in rowing in 2016, he qualified again for the sport in Tokyo, then even surprised himself by also qualifying in sprint canoe (he was aiming for 2024). Haxton will be joined in paracanoe by Kaitlyn Verfuerth, who has already competed in three Paralympic Games in wheelchair tennis. Kendall Gretsch, two-time Paralympic gold medalist in Nordic skiing, also joined the multisport club and qualified for her first Summer Games in paratriathlon.
The United States team celebrates after winning the men’s wheelchair basketball gold medal match at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Smells like Teen Spirit
Who said that the youth are wasted by the young? Team USA brings 19 teenagers to Tokyo, including seven who have not yet become legal adults. Swimmer Keegan Knott is the youngest American at 16, just two months older than Ezra Frech, who competes as a sprinter, high jumper and long jumper. Meet the whole crew here.
The Team USA teams have just achieved remarkable performances in Rio. The US women’s sitting volleyball team won gold for the first time in 2016, after winning a pair of silvers and a bronze medal in previous Games. In wheelchair basketball, the American men and women won gold for the first time since 1988. Both American teams were also on the podium in goalball – the men won silver; women’s bronze – scoring the first time since 2004. Wheelchair rugby has only one event, but the United States team won a silver in Rio, extending the United States’ streak as the only country to have reached the podium at any Paralympic Games since the sport was added to the Games in 1996.
Sweeps, Sweeps and (Mc) Sweeps
American athletes have swept the podium three times in Rio – with track stars Tatyana McFadden, Amanda McGrory and Chelsea McClammer doing so twice. They took the top three spots in the T54 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter races (McClammer and McGrory traded places in the 5K). These races have been aptly dubbed “McSweeps”. The other sweep of the United States came in the Paralympic debut of the paratriathlon, where Allysa Seely, Hailey Danz (née Danisewicz) and Melissa Stockwell won all medals in the women’s PT2 rankings. The good news for Team USA fans? The six athletes are back for Tokyo.
welcome to the club
Two new sports are making their Paralympic Games debut this year: badminton and taekwondo. Although the United States is not represented in badminton, Evan Medell and Brianna Salinaro will make history as the first Americans to compete in taekwondo.
Quick, in 60 seconds or less, can you name which athlete from Team USA has the most followers on TikTok? It would be Anastasia Pagonis, a 17-year-old swimmer from Long Island with a follower count of 2 million. Pagonis uses its social media to educate about parasport and the visually impaired community – and for fun. And she’s pretty good at swimming too, having broken a world record in the S11 400-meter freestyle at the Paralympic trials in June.