A group of approximately 135 elite and emerging athletes from nine sports came together to represent the U.S. at the 2007 Parapan American Games, Aug. 12-19 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nearly 1,300 athletes were in Rio to compete in judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, soccer (both five-a-side and seven-a-side), swimming, table tennis, track and field, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair tennis.
The U.S. athlete delegation featured three men who have come through the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympic Military Program: Kortney Clemons (Little Rock, MS/powerlifting); James Stuck (New Kensington, PA/sitting volleyball); and Scott Winkler (Augusta, GA/track and field), all members of the U.S. Army. Clemons came to the first Paralympic Military Sports Camp in 2005 and later became involved with powerlifting and track and field. He has already competed internationally, at the 2006 IPC Powerlifting World Championships in Busan, Korea, where he finished 13th in the men's 75 kg division.
Stuck joined the U.S. Paralympics Men's Sitting Volleyball National Team in 2007. At 6'4", he adds a strong presence at the net for the U.S. team, which is aiming to earn a spot at the 2008 Paralympic Games. Winkler may have the opportunity to make the biggest impact of the three, provided he is nominated for the team as expected. (Track and field nominees were not available at press time.) Competing in discus and shot put, Winkler has already put up impressive numbers in both events and is approaching world record distances.
Here is a brief look at some of the athletes and teams that competed in August.
Led by three-time Paralympian Scott Moore (Denver, CO) and Paralympic resident athletes Grace Ohashi (Colorado Springs, CO) and Myles Porter (Colorado Springs, CO), 10 U.S. athletes looked to take a big step toward the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Moore, a three-time Paralympic medalist (gold--2000; bronze--1996, 2004) looked for a strong international showing after being upset in the early rounds of the 2006 International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) Judo World Championships in Brommat, France.
Brommat was the stage for Porter's first international competition, where he surprised a lot of people by finishing fifth in the 100 kg class. With another year of experience under his belt, Porter pushed for a medal in Rio. Ohashi has ascended to No. 3 nationally in the women's 52 kg class after her second-place finish at the 2007 USA Judo National Championships in Miami, and was also considered a strong medal hopeful.
Two-time Paralympian Mary Stack (Ann Arbor, MI) lead the four-athlete squad, which mirrored the group that represented the U.S. at the 2006 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Powerlifting World Championships in Busan, Korea.
Anderson Wise (Needham, MA) had the best finish of the four U.S. lifters at the event, finishing sixth in the men's 67.5 kg division with a lift of 167.5 kg.
The U.S. men's sitting volleyball roster features nine players from the 2006 World Championships Team that finished ninth in Roermond, The Netherlands--the best final standing the U.S. men's team has ever registered at the event.
At the 2003 Para Pan American Games, the U.S. won the gold medal over Brazil to qualify for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Five athletes on the 2007 roster were part of that gold-medal squad: Rene Aquino (Chicago, IL); Brad Johnson (Pompano Beach, FL); Curtis Lease (Naperville, IL); Brent Rasmussen (Omaha, NE); and Chris Seilkop (DeLand, FL).
The U.S. women did not compete in Rio.
The U.S. Parapan American Soccer Team looked to use the event in Rio as its way of qualifying for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. If the team succeeded, it did so with a younger roster that's just starting to get a taste of international competition. At the 2007 CP International Tournament in The Netherlands, the U.S. team featured three players making their international debut.
At the tournament, the U.S. found offense from midfielder Josh McKinney and forwards Marthell Vazquez and Chris Ahrens, one of the three newcomers to the squad. They needed to play well for the U.S. to succeed in Rio.
Four athletes on the roster--Kate Gibbs (Midlothian, VA); Susan Beth Scott (Cape Girardeau, MO); Michael Prout (West Springfield, MA); and Carrie Willoughby (Colorado Springs, CO)--were part of the U.S. team that competed at the 2006 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa. The roster also featured two athletes--Cody Bureau (Latrobe, PA) and Justin Fleming (Redmond, WA)--currently residing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
"The young swimmers on this roster are on the verge of National Team Qualifying and are solidly positioned (top 8-12) in the Swimming World Rankings," said Julie O'Neill, Head Coach of the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team. "The experience in Rio gave them much needed experience prior to Beijing."
U.S. National Team athletes Tahl Leibovitz (Ozone Park, NY) and Andre Scott (Fort Worth, TX) led a group of seven U.S. table tennis players looking to build some confidence for Beijing after getting shut out of the medal count at last year's World Championships in Switzerland.
Leibovitz went into the semi-finals of the event unbeaten before falling to the eventual gold medalist and dropping a five-set heartbreaker in the bronze medal match. He looked to return to form and add to his international medal collection in Rio.
Track and Field
Track and field had the biggest representation, by far, on the U.S. Parapan American Team with an expected roster size of 40-45 athletes, featuring a number of Paralympians, world champions, and record breakers.
Among those projected to compete in Rio were Danny Andrews (Tucson, AZ); Jeremy Campbell (Perryton, TX); Brian Frasure (Apex, NC); April Holmes (Somerdale, NJ); Marion Shirley (San Diego, CA); and Jeff Skiba (Issaquah, WA).
Both the men's and women's U.S. teams came off silver-medal performances at last year's World Championships in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and each looked to take down Canada, which came away with both gold medals in 2006.
The men's team featured the same core group as last year's squad, with the top five scorers and top six in minutes played at World Championships all going to Rio. One player to watch was Matt Scott. Although he was sixth on the team in minutes played at just over 18 per contest, Scott averaged nearly 12 points a game (second on the team), while shooting a team-best 52% from the floor and collecting 2.4 steals a game, another team high.
One noticeable difference on the 2007 women's squad is the absence of Christina Ripp, who was the top rebounder and second-leading scorer for the 2006 World Championship Team. Head coach Ron Lykins (Stillwater, MN) looked for veteran players Carlee Hoffman, Stephanie Wheeler, and Andrea Woodsen to elevate their games and, along with Jennifer Ruddell, lead the team to another possible gold medal game.
Four U.S. athletes competed in wheelchair tennis, including two Paralympians from the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens--John Rydberg (Oakdale, MN) and Kaitlyn Verfuerth (Rancho Cucamanga, CA), who turned 22 on the day of the opening ceremonies.
Rounding out the squad were Beth Arnoult-Ritthaler (Paia, HI) and Paul Moran (Glenview, IL).
This year's Games marked the first time the Parapan American Games have immediately followed the Pan American Games in the same city, similar to the way the Paralympic Games follow the Olympic Games.
Source Citation:"2007 U.S. Parapan American team to feature numerous emerging athletes.(U.S. Paralympics Forum)." Palaestra 23.3 (Summer 2007): 8(2). Popular Magazines. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 13 May 2009
Gale Document Number:A169824943
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