U.S. ends Tokyo Paralympics with best gold-medal rank in 13 years and bevy of highlights

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Day Eleven
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While China won both the total- and gold-medal counts for the fifth summer Paralympic Games running, the United States had its own top-three finish worth celebrating in Tokyo.

The U.S. contingent was third in the race for most golds, its highest finish in that category since Beijing 2008. Since leading both the total and gold medals when it hosted the Games in Atlanta 25 years ago, the Americans’ best summer Paralympic finishes had been third in the total rank in 2000 and third in both categories in 2008.

When the Games ended Sunday, the top five countries on the total medal table were China (207), Great Britain (124), Russian Paralympic Committee (118), the U.S. (104) and Ukraine (98). China’s tally for golds was 96, followed by Great Britain (41), the U.S. (37), Russian Paralympic Committee (36) and the Netherlands (25).

The U.S. took home medals in 15 of the 19 sports it entered for its most diverse share of medals in 17 years, including its first medals in canoe and taekwondo.

Jessica Long, already the country’s second-most decorated Paralympian and the world’s most decorated active Paralympian at age 29, left Tokyo as the most successful woman at the Games among all nations. Her six medals in swimming (bringing her career total to 29) were two greater than any other American.

Making his Paralympic debut, sprinter Nick Mayhugh led the U.S. men with four medals, three of which were gold. The 25-year-old set worlds records in the 100m T37, 200m T37 and 4x100m universal relay, plus an American record for his silver-medal performance in the 400m T37.

Seven Americans – Noah Malone (track and field), Elizabeth Marks (swimming), Raymond Martin (track and field), Brittni Mason (track and field), Tatyana McFadden (track and field), Roxanne Trunnell (equestrian), Mallory Weggemann (swimming) – followed with three medals apiece. Seventeen more U.S. athlete earned two medals in Tokyo.

Winning a medal of each color, McFadden reached her 20th Paralympic medal at her sixth Games.

Cheri Madsen, Oksana Masters and Martin all reached the double-digit mark in career Paralympic medals. Madsen has two golds, five silvers and three bronzes in track and field from the 1996, 2000, 2016 and 2020 Games. Martin has seven golds and three silvers on the track, earned at the past three Games. Masters medaled in her fourth sport and now counts four golds, three silvers and three bronzes from the past five Games in biathlon, cross-country skiing, cycling and rowing.

Kendall Gretsch became the third U.S. woman, and fifth American total, to win gold at both the summer and winter Paralympics. She added triathlon PTWC victory to her biathlon and cross-country skiing wins from PyeongChang 2018. Masters added her name to that list two days later with time trial H4-5 gold, then took road race H5 gold the following day.

Brad Snyder also won gold in his second sport. The Navy veteran added a triathlon PTVI win to his seven swimming medals from London and Rio. His is the first U.S. men’s Paralympic triathlon medal.

Other U.S. highlights from the Tokyo Games include:

  • Women accounted for 61.5% of total U.S. medals and 62% of U.S. gold medals.
  • With Ian Seidenfeld’s gold in men’s singles Class 6 and Jenson Van Emburgh’s bronze in men’s singles Class 3, the U.S. won its first table tennis medals since 2004, had its best result in the sport since 1996 and also earned its most medals in the sport in that long. Coincidentally, Seidenfeld’s father, Mitchell, won two of the U.S.’ five Paralympic table tennis medals in 1996.
  • Blake Haxton, a 2016 Paralympic rower, competed in both rowing and canoe sprint in Tokyo and earned silver in va’a 200m VL2 for the first Paralympic canoe medal by an American; the sport debuted in Rio.
  • Evan Medell took bronze in his sport’s Paralympic debut in men’s +75kg K44 for the country’s first taekwondo medal.
  • Cyclist Alicia Dana was the oldest U.S. medalist in Tokyo, with road race H1-4 and mixed team relay H1-5 bronzes at age 58.
  • Led by Trunnell, the U.S. equestrian team won its first medal in 17 years, first gold in 25 years, most medals in 25 years and first dressage team medal. Trunnell is now tied for the most decorated and winningest U.S. Para equestrian.
  • With golds from Gretsch, Snyder and now two-time champion Allysa Seely, the U.S. triathlon team led its sport in most medals (five) and most golds (three).
  • The women’s sitting volleyball and men’s wheelchair basketball teams successfully defended their gold medals from Rio, while U.S. teams also medaled in women’s goalball (silver), women’s wheelchair basketball (bronze) and wheelchair rugby (silver).
  • Five world records (Breanna Clark – 400m T20; Mayhugh – 100m T37, 200m T37; Roderick Townsend – high jump T47; Malone/Mason/Mayhugh/McFadden – universal relay), seven more American records (Hagan Landry – shot put F41; Malone – 400m T12; Martin – 1500m T52; Mayhugh – 400m T37; Trenten Merrill – long jump T64; Cassie Mitchell – club throw F51; Jaleen Roberts – 100m T37) and a Paralympic record (Susannah Scaroni – 5000m T54) were set by Americans in track and field.
  • The U.S. set four world records in swimming – Robert Griswold (100m backstroke S8), Marks (100m backstroke S6), Anastasia Pagonis (400m freestyle S11), Gia Pergolini (100m backstroke S13), plus an additional Paralympic record by Weggemann in the 100m backstroke S7.
  • Nearly 39.5% of the U.S. medals came in track and field (41 total) and 33.65% were won in swimming (35 total).

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U.S. equestrian team ends historic Paralympic performance with most medals in 25 years

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Day Six
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The U.S. Para dressage team made headlines time after time after time over the past four days, winning its greatest tally of Paralympic medals in 25 years.

Roxanne Trunnell, aboard Dolton, kicked off what would be a historic performance by the squad when she won gold in the individual test Grade I on Friday. Hers was the United States’ first Paralympic equestrian medal in 17 years and first gold in 25 years.

When medal events resumed on Sunday, the U.S. earned bronze in the dressage team test to music. Two-time Olympian Trunnell combined with four-time Paralympian Rebecca Hart, with El Corona Texel, and first-time Paralympian Kate Shoemaker, aboard Solitaer 40, for the program’s first-ever Paralympic team medal.

That trio also made history in 2018 when they combined for four medals at the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s premier event and one where the U.S. had never before medaled in Para dressage. Held in Mill Spring, North Carolina, Hart earned silver in the individual freestyle Grade III and bronze in the individual championship Grade III. Trunnell (Grade I) and Shoemaker (Grade IV) both took home bronze medals in individual freestyle.

On Monday, the final day of equestrian competition in Tokyo, Shoemaker was fourth in the individual freestyle test Grade IV and compatriot Beatrice de Lavalette and Clarc were sixth in the Grade II event, while Trunnell once again returned to the podium, winning the Grade I event. This time she and Dolton set a Paralympic record of 86.927%.

With three medals, the U.S. team had its best performance since the Atlanta 1996 Games, when it also earned two golds and a bronze. The Americans’ medals in Tokyo are the only medals by a North American country in Paralympic equestrian in 13 years.

Trunnell tied three others for the most Paralympic medals by a U.S. equestrian; Cynthia Good, Tim Saxton, Wendy Shugal each claimed three in 1984, when the sport debuted before reappearing in 1996. She also tied Saxton and Vicki Sweigart (1996) for the most golds at two apiece.

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

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Roxanne Trunnell wins United States’ first Paralympic gold medal in equestrian in 25 years

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Para equestrian rider Roxanne Trunnell has been making history all year for the United States and continued that trend on her sport’s biggest stage Friday afternoon.

Trunnell, aboard Dolton, won the gold medal in the individual test Grade I at the Tokyo Paralympics. Hers is the first Paralympic medal for the U.S. in equestrian since 2004 and first gold since 1996, when Vicki Sweigart won two golds in the Grade II events.

Trunnell and Dolton earned a score of 81.464% to best reigning world silver medalist Rihards Snikus (80.179% with King of the Dance) and three-time world champion Sara Morganti (76.964% with Royal Delight).

Riding Aladdin, 60-year-old Jens Lasse Dokkan of Norway – the only athlete to compete in all seven Paralympic equestrian competitions – was fourth at 75.929%.

Trunnell has been riding horses most of her life and competed in able-bodied dressage before a suspected mosquito bite would change her life in 2009. At 23 years old, Trunnell became ill with H1N1 virus, which turned into encephalitis. It caused her brain to swell, and a blood clot led to a stroke. She was diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, which affects her fine motor skills and is the reason she uses a wheelchair.

Now 36, Trunnell entered Tokyo ranked No. 1 in the world across all grades and has held that position in her grade since the beginning of 2020, when she became the first American to earn the top spot in the sport.

The Washington state native was 10th at her Paralympic debut in 2016 with Royal Dancer. She teamed up with Dolton in 2018 and they rode to bronze at the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s equivalent to a world championships, later that year.

In January of this year, Trunnell was the first Para equestrian to be awarded the Whitney Stone Cup, a prestigious domestic honor that has previously gone to Olympic greats Beezie Madden, J. Michael Plumb and McLain Ward.

In March, she and Dolton set a world-record score of 83.334%, then bested it three months later with 84.70% at the Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI3*. The following day, the pair blew away its own world record with 89.52%.

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

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