Robert Griswold, Nick Mayhugh set world records as U.S. men win first Paralympic medals

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 3
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It took the men of the U.S. Paralympic team until the third day of competition to earn their first medal in Tokyo, but once they did the medals kept coming.

Led by world-record efforts from Robert Griswold in the pool and Nick Mayhugh on the track, the U.S. tripled its medal count from four to 12 on Friday, with four of those medals coming in men’s events.

Griswold, the two-time reigning world champion, claimed the first medal of these Games by a U.S. man when he won the 100m backstroke S8 in 1:02.55, breaking the world record of 1:02.90 set by China’s Zhou Cong five years ago in Rio, where Griswold was third.

“I worked for five years for this moment,” Griswold told U.S. Paralympics Swimming. “I remember this record took a big jump down in Rio, and I was in that race, and I woke up the next day and said, ‘How can I get down to 1:02.90?’ I thought about it again and again, and said if I just kept a little bit better every day, it will click. Then one day it all clicked.”

In the next race, Jessica Long – the most decorated active Paralympian – took bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke S8 for her 24th career medal. Competing in her fifth Games, Long has four individual events still to come.

Mallory Weggemann and Ahalya Lettenberger went 1-2 for the U.S. in the 200m individual medley SM7. The race was the first of Lettenberger’s Paralympic career, and the 13th for three-time Paralympian Weggemann but her first gold medal in nine years.

“This has been a very long fight and there has been a lot of circumstances that have come around through this journey,” Weggemann said. “I’m just filled with pride that I get to be with Team USA and I get to represent my family, my community, and that I have that love and support to surround me.”

About 20 minutes later, Mayhugh won the U.S.’ first track and field medal of the Games when he cruised to victory in the 100m T37. His time of 10.95 seconds bested his 10.97 world record from the morning’s heats. The first-time Paralympian had last set the record when he won the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in 11.21 seconds in June.

“I honestly didn’t feel like I ran my two best races,” Mayhugh said, according to “I know there’s a lot more left in the tank, so I’m just excited to run again.”

Mayhugh, 25, took up track just two years ago. He led the team that earned bronze in soccer at the 2019 Parapan American Games and was named the 2019 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year with a Disability. Soccer 7-a-side had been removed from the Paralympic program from Tokyo, though, so Mayhugh, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2010, decided to try his hand on the track.

He is now ranked No. 1 in the world in both the 100m and 200m.

Raymond Martin took silver in the 400m T52 after winning the event in both London and Rio. Japan’s Tomoki Sato, the three-time reigning world champion, won the race in a Paralympic-record time of 55.39 seconds.

For the fifth Paralympic Games in a row, Lex Gillette settled for the silver medal in the long jump T11 with a best jump of 6.17 meters. China’s Di Dongdong, who only competed in sprint events in Rio, won with a jump of 6.47.

Gillette has won the event at the past four world championships, though has never been able to secure the title when it comes to the Paralympic Games. The 36-year-old has already said he plans to compete in Paris in three years.

For the U.S.’ first medal outside of its three major sports of cycling, swimming and track and field, dressage rider Roxanne Trunnell won gold in the individual test Grade I. Hers is the first Paralympic equestrian medal by an American in 17 years and first gold in 25.

A full Paralympic Games broadcast schedule is available here. Events can also be streamed on and the NBC Sports app, with more info available here.

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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