Austin, Winnett, Nuhfer break Parapan American records on way to Santiago gold
by Ros Dumlao
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Evan Austin (Terre Haute, Indiana) made a statement on the fifth day of the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023, winning his event in record-breaking fashion to show he’s serious about another Paralympic run.
Austin beat Colombia’s Carlos Serrano to the wall and punched the air in triumph, taking the men’s 50m butterfly S7 in a Parapan Am record time of 29.31. The reigning Paralympic champion had taken a break from the sport after the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 but has decided to give Paris a shot, with the journey beginning Wednesday in Santiago.
“I stepped away from the sport to do some professional development and explore some options post-swimming career,” explained the 31-year-old. “What ended up being the deciding factor (to return) was that I did what I set out to accomplish as a kid, which was I got to win some medals for Team USA. But my family wasn’t there (at Tokyo 2020). So, if I can maybe repeat something like that with my family and friends in the audience, that would just mean the world, put a cherry on top of a fun career.”
Team USA collected 10 medals – 34 total so far – and broke three records on Wednesday. One of those records stemmed from Taylor Winnett (Hershey, Pennsylvania), who continued her successful run at the Parapan Ams. Her gold in the women’s 100m butterfly S10 was her fifth medal - second win in Santiago - and perhaps her most important after lowering the Parapan Am record that stood for eight years to 1:09.35. Once again, it was a race between Winnett and Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana), who was just 0.55 shy of her compatriot. Jenkins secured her second medal in Santiago, adding to her bronze from the 400m freestyle.
“This morning I was super anxious, and in the call room right before we went up, Rachel (Keehn) came up and said ‘Can I pray for you?’ And that’s all I could ask for in a teammate. Mikaela came up and gave me a hug before my race,” Winnett said. “It’s so hard because you want your teammates to win and succeed, but you also want to win and succeed. To have teammates that encourage me, and I hope they feel encouraged by me, it means everything because swimming inherently is an individual sport.”
“Knowing that my name is going to be on a Parapan Am record is an honor,” she added. “So many women have paved this road for us, and I’m grateful that the Paralympics exist.”
Keegan Knott (Lake Villa, Illinois) was in full control of the women’s 400m freestyle S9 to secure the gold and lead a U.S. sweep with Cali Prochaska (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and Madelyn White (Athens, Georgia) coming in silver and bronze, respectively.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, and I’m just happy to finally get it,” Knott said. “We’ve been working on flowing and keeping a long and strong stroke. While it wasn’t the time I wanted, I was really happy with how I executed it.”
Grace Nuhfer (Greenwood, Indiana) made the most of her only race in Santiago by sealing her first major international medal in record-setting style (27.90), claiming the women’s 50m freestyle S13 where she swam with S12 athletes.
“I knew it would be a dog fight, the girls are very strong, and coming in as a rookie I just wanted to have fun, take it all in and leave it all in the pool,” Nuhfer said.
Megan Gioffreda (Towson, Maryland) wrapped up a stellar international debut with silver in the women’s 50m freestyle S6, completing her medal set with gold in the 200m IM SM6 and bronze in the 100m backstroke S6. McKenzie Coan (Clarkesville, Georgia) was elated with bronze in the S8 equivalent event, especially considering the S7 athlete has been swimming up in her class.
Not long after her own race, Coan had to turn her attention to swim the final leg of the mixed 4x100m medley relay 34 points. She helped Team USA bring home the silver with Jack O’Neil, Emmett Martin and Taylor Winnett.
Competition resumes Thursday (Nov. 23) at 9 a.m. local time with the sixth day of preliminary heats. All sessions will be streamed live on the Pan Am sports channel. Follow U.S. Paralympics Swimming on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Team USA Medals – November 22
*denotes Parapan American Games record
Evan Austin – men’s 50m butterfly S7*
Taylor Winnett – women’s 100m butterfly S10*
Keegan Knott – women’s 400m freestyle S9
Mikaela Jenkins – women’s 100m butterfly S10
Grace Nuhfer – women’s 50m freestyle S13*
Cali Prochaska – women’s 400m freestyle S9
Megan Gioffreda – women’s 50m freestyle S6
Jack O’Neil, Emmett Martin, Taylor Winnett, McKenzie Coan – mixed 4x100m medley relay 34 points
Madelyn White – women’s 400m freestyle S9
Mckenzie Coan (S7) – women’s 50m freestyle S8
Other Team USA Results:
Rachel Keehn – 4th, women’s 100m butterfly S10
Carson Bruner – 4th, men’s 400m freestyle S9
Adin Williams – 5th, men’s 50m butterfly S7
Yaseen El-Demerdash – 5th, men’s 100m butterfly S10
Evan Wilkerson – 5th, men’s 100m freestyle S12
Jeff Lovett – 5th, men’s 200m IM SM14
William Rankine – 6th, men’s 100m freestyle S12
Emmett Martin – 7th, men’s 100m butterfly S10
Haven Shepherd – 7th, women’s 50m freestyle S8
Trevor Lukacsko – 7th, men’s 200m IM SM14
Piper Sadowski – 8th, women’s 200m IM SM14
Abigail Kershaw – 5th, women’s 200m IM SM14 (Heat 2)