Team USA already won three medals, with their first medal secured by Para cyclist Shawn Morelli, who raced to silver on Wednesday, August 25. Morelli started a streak of three, and hopefully many more medals to come in the following days of competition.
As a Para cyclist, Morelli isn’t a novice. She has already participated in the Rio Paralympics and won two gold medals in 2016. Morelli was a Second Lieutenant and engineer officer in the U.S. Army and is an Afghanistan veteran. When she was injured in 2007, she found her passion for Para-cycling and broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record at the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships. Moreover, she is a 12-time world champion.
In the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Shawn led the way for the U.S., earning a silver medal in the 3000 m individual pursuit WC4. Morelli’s medal gave Team USA its first of the 12-day long competition. “This feels great after the journey we’ve had after the past year and a half during the pandemic. It feels great to get here and then perform for Team USA. I give credit to my coaches because it was hard at times trying to keep focused when you didn’t know if the Games were even going to happen. I love to compete, so being out there for everybody, and not just for me, but for my family, friends and country. I just wanted to perform well and represent my team well. Hopefully everybody back home thinks I did,” Morelli says.
Morelli earned a spot in the gold medal final after finishing second in qualifying with a time of 3:46.842. The two-time Paralympian entered the race as the defending Paralympic champion from the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and took second behind Australian Emily Petricola, who set a Paralympic and world record in the competition.
Clara Brown (Falmouth, Maine) made her Paralympic debut and advanced to the bronze medal bout in the 3000 m individual pursuit WC3. She finished fourth with a time of 4:01.523 in what is one of the strongest fields at the Tokyo Games this year. “I really fought today, and it feels good to have made a final with my performance. It’s inspiring to be out here with such strong competitors, and it means that much more to have made a final against them because it is a strong field,” Brown states.
After being added to the team this month, two-time Paralympian Jamie Whitmore (Somerset, California) entered qualifying, looking to have a strong showing in the 3000 m individual pursuit WC3. She finished eighth on the day. “It was an emotional rollercoaster this time around. Going into this Games, I’ve just felt a lot of gratitude. Rio, it was for overcoming cancer and having a second career. This time, it’s just being able to go and be part of this. The Paralympics is one of the most amazing things,” Whitmore says. “To be at my second Games, it’s much more incredible. Now my kids are more aware of the magnitude of this race. All their classmates and teachers are watching back home. While I am one of the old dogs now, it’s nice to be that person that helps the younger ones relax and be calm and just focus on having the race as their life.”
In other Paralympic news: Shortly after Morelli won the first medal for Team USA, Elizabeth Marks joined the celebration and won a silver medal in the 50 m Freestyle swimming competition. On Thursday, August 26, Anastasia Pagonis followed and won gold in the 400 m Freestyle swimming competition.
See all results: Check out the results from the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Watch life: Tune in to NBCSN, NBCSports.com and Peacock for coverage of Para-cycling at the Paralympic Games.
Cover Image: Team USA