The closing ceremony for the Rio Olympics is on August 21st. However, the athletic events don’t stop then! On September 7th, the Paralympic Games begin and you can bet we’re going to be cheering on Team USA. Earlier this summer I talked about 5 amazing women who were competing at the Olympics, and now, here are 5 more incredible women to watch out for at the Paralympic Games:
- Jessica Long competed in her first international competition when she was only 12 years old. She competed in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens as a swimmer. She was the youngest athlete on the US Paralympic Swim Team at the time and she won 3 gold medals! At the age of 15, Jessica won the 2007 AAU Sullivan Award which is awarded to the nation’s top amateur athlete. She was the first Paralympian to receive this award, beating out other athletes such as fellow swimmer Michael Phelps. In 2008, Jessica won 4 gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal at the Beijing Games. She also set 3 new world records! Additionally, Jessica competed at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and we are excited to watch her compete in Rio as well!
- Melissa Stockwell’s Olympic career started out on the US Swim Team at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008. However, at this year’s games in Rio, Melissa will participate in the Paratriathlon as it makes its Olympic debut. Melissa is also featured in a documentary called “From Baghdad to Beijing” which chronicles how Melissa and 3 other members of the Army were injured in Baghdad and then competed in the Beijing Paralympics. Melissa joined the Army after college and on April 13th, 2004, she became the first woman to lose a limb in active combat. However Melissa didn’t let this stop her–52 days later she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg and in a couple of weeks she will be running, swimming, and biking her way through the Paratriathlon in Rio!
- April Holmes may have lost part of her leg in a train accident 15 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped her from competing in the sport she loves: track & field. The Rio Games will be April’s fourth time competing in the Paralympics and we expect her to bring home more gold! April also runs a non-profit, called the April Holmes Foundation, to assist people with disabilities by providing them with scholarships, medical equipment, and job placement. She also helped First Lady Michelle Obama on the “Let’s Move” health campaign and is the first female athlete to be sponsored by Michael Jordan’s brand for shoes. We can’t wait to watch her fly past the finish line in Rio!
- Tatyana McFadden isn’t new to the Paralympics – she competed in multiple events in the 2004 Athens games, 2008 Beijing games, 2012 London games, and 2014 Sochi games. Aside from being one of the most experienced Paralympians, Tatyana is also one of the most decorated. She has 11 Paralympic medals, 3 of which are gold from the 2012 London games. Tatyana is nicknamed “the Beast” for her amazing athletic range – she competes in the sprint, middle, and marathon distances and she competed in 5 individual races at the London games. She has also won the New York City marathon and Chicago Marathon (twice!). I’m excited to watch her compete in Rio against other amazing athletes, one of whom is her own sister!
- Hannah McFadden, Tatyana’s younger sister, is also no stranger to the Paralympics. Hannah made her debut at the 2012 London games where, at 16-years-old, she was the youngest athlete on the US Paralympic Track & Field Team. As a child she loved to swim, but once she was introduced to running, there was no stopping her! She had been attending the Paralympics prior to 2012 to cheer on her sister, but then Hannah qualified for the London games. It was the first time 2 sisters competed against one another at the Paralympics! Although they are quite close in real life, on the track they are competitors. Both sisters are competing against each other once again this summer in Rio in the 100, 400, 800, and 1500m runs, and I’m excited to cheer for them both!