The Paralympics is a separate set of Olympic Games for athletes who suffer from physical and mental disabilities. Both competitions have winter and summer games every four years, and like the Olympic Games this past summer, Rio hosted the 2016 Paralympic Games from Sept. 7 to Sept. 18.
The United States had a very strong team. It was ranked fourth in the world, following Ukraine, in third place, Great Britain in second, and the People’s Republic of China in first place. China won a total of 239 medals, 107 of them being gold. By comparison, the U.S. won 115 medals, 40 of them being gold.
The U.S.’s strong presence in the Paralympics made history. The American athletes’s success was highlighted by the women’s sitting volleyball team’s unprecedented gold medal after a win against China.
“I love sitting volleyball!” Mt. Hebron sophomore Ainsley Daniel said. “It’s an interesting difference between the other Olympic volleyball matches, and it’s really inspirational.”
The men’s team made it to the finals, but sadly lost against China 25-14, 25-19 and 15-14. James Stuck led the team with seven points in the first set, but China outplayed them in the rest of the sets.
In the U.S. Paralympic swimming team, returning silver medalist Rebecca Meyers won gold in the 400 meter freestyle. Despite her complications with usher syndrome, a condition in which a person is deaf and going blind, she broke the world record she set the year before at the World Championships in England.
Sophia Herzog earned her first Paralympic Games medal with a silver in women’s 100 meter breaststroke. The women’s 4×100 meter freestyle relay added another silver from Mckenzie Coan, Lizzi Smith, Jessica Long and Michelle Konkoly.
On the men’s side, returning medalist Bradley Snyder won the gold in the 400 and 50 meter freestyle. Snyder also broke the record of 56.67 seconds in the 100 meter freestyle with a time of 56.15. Snyder also won a silver medal in the 100 meter backstroke.
On the first day of the competition, the cycling team won a total of 9 medals: one gold, five silver and three bronze. Joe Berenyi, who does not have his right arm, Shawn Morelli, who is blind in his left eye and paralyzed on the right side of his body, Greta Neimanas, who has a prosthetic left forearm, Jill Walsh, who has multiple sclerosis, and Jamie Whitmore, who has a paralyzed lower left leg, are all returning cyclists with world titles. Even with all of these disabilities, the athletes still had the courage to compete, and now they are some of the best in the world.
The next Summer Paralympics will be held in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, while the Winter Paralympics will be held in Seoul, South Korea in 2018.