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 TeamUSA.org. “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.
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