Worth the wait for White as Team USA closes Santiago 2023 with highest medal day
by Ros Dumlao
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Confidence, confusion, relief, then pure joy. The emotional rollercoaster Madelyn White (Athens, Georgia) went through to learn she, indeed, was the 100-meter breaststroke champion at the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023 is what made her moment special.
As the reigning Parapan Am champion of the women’s 100m breaststroke SB8, White was in full command of her race and touched the wall four seconds faster than her next competitor.
But then she saw a DQS.
Having waited all week to swim her marquee event, White had to wait a few more hours to learn if her result would be reinstated after her team’s appeal.
It was all worth the wait.
“My heartbeat is going so fast right now,” White said. “I was really, really upset at first because this was a race that I trained for the past three years ever since Lima (2019 Parapan Ams) ended,” said White, who added to her bronze medal. “To repeat the gold is the best feeling you can ever have. And I’m so thankful to my teammates, my coaches, all the staff who have helped me get through this week. It’s been a long week, and I’m just relieved.”
Cali Prochaska (Fort Wayne, Indiana) also had to wait for her bronze medal in the event to be confirmed as she to wrap up a successful Parapan Ams that saw her medal across all her races, including double gold and showing progress since Lima.
White and Prochaska’s medals kick started a successful seventh and final day of swimming competition in Santiago. Team USA added 12 medals including three golds for their best performance of the week. One of those wins came from first-time Santiago winner Yaseen El-Demerdash (Overland Park, Kansas).
In his fourth individual race of the week, El-Demerdash admitted to feeling the weight of all his races take a toll on his body. But he pushed through in the men’s 100m backstroke S10 to finally stand at the top of the podium and spoil Argentinean Santiago Senestro’s hopes of a second gold.
“I’m not going to lie getting in the pool this morning, I didn’t feel great. But I was mentally in a good place and looked forward to having fun, and I love the guys I’m racing with,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s an amazing surprise (to win gold). I think it hasn’t quite set in, but it feels good.”
El-Demerdash wasn’t done yet. He doubled up as the first leg of the 4x100m freestyle relay 34 points with Jack O’Neil (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Natalie Sims (Edina, Minnesota) and McKenzie Coan (Clarkesville, Georgia) to bring home the silver medal.
“It’s a great way to wrap it up,” said El-Demerdash, who’s going home with four medals. “It was an amazing relay and a great summary of our team the last couple of weeks.”
Taylor Winnett (Hershey, Pennsylvania) can call herself the most decorated swimmer on Team USA after winning the women’s 100m backstroke S10, bringing her total medal count to seven, three being gold.
But the most interesting part of her last race was holding off 13-year-old teammate Chloe Cederholm (Salt Lake City, Utah), who led off the turn.
Cederholm made a statement in her international debut as she added to her bronze in the 200m IM SM10 from earlier in the week. It didn’t bother her that most of the time she had to take her marks against Winnett.
“I couldn’t be happier for Taylor,” Cederholm said. “As much as gold would have been great, I’m overwhelmed with (pride) for Taylor. I did exactly what I wanted to do, and that’s all I was going for. The silver is just a little accessory knowing that I did what I had to do.”
Two other rookies are going home with a medal in their international debuts in Trevor Lukacsko (Bernardsville, New Jersey) with bronze in the men’s 100m butterfly S14 and 14-year-old Noah Busch (Dunkirk, Maryland) in the men’s 50m free S9.
“Breaking up a Brazilian sweep here is just amazing,” said Busch, knowing Brazil had overwhelmed the competition to take 120 of the medals on offer. “It was definitely my motivation.”
If there was any race that Coan wanted, it was the women’s 100m freestyle S7. A Paralympic champion from 2016 in the event, Coan admitted she was disappointed in falling half a second shy of the gold medal. Still, she tried to keep a bigger perspective as she flies back with six medals.
“I’m an athlete and I’m definitely a perfectionist so if anything, this should make me hungrier. Watch out 2024,” said Coan.
Zach Shattuck (Mount Airy, Maryland) and William Rankine (Warner Robins, Georgia) are each going home with a pair of medals, claiming bronze in the men’s 50m butterfly S6 and men’s 200m IM SM13, respectively, on Friday.
Two-time Paralympian and one of the few team veterans Sims raced her only individual event of the week to take silver in the women’s 100m freestyle S9. The 26-year-old calls this her Paralympic comeback after taking time off after Tokyo 2020.
“I’ve been out of the water for a couple of years after Tokyo, decided to take a break and the 100 free has always been my event,” Sims said. “I wanted to try the corporate world a little bit, take a break from swimming and figure out what I wanted to do apart from swimming. I love the sport and it kept calling me back.”
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Paralympic Communications at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.
Team USA Medals – November 24
Madelyn White – women’s 100m breaststroke SB8
Yaseen El-Demerdash – men’s 100m backstroke S10
Taylor Winnett – women’s 100m backstroke S10
Cali Prochaska – women’s 100m breaststroke SB8
Chloe Cederholm – women’s 100m backstroke S10
Mckenzie Coan – women’s 100m freestyle S7
Natalie Sims – women’s 100m freestyle S9
Yaseen El-Demerdash, Jack O’Neil, Natalie Sims, McKenzie Coan - mixed 4x100 freestyle relay – 34 points
William Rankine – men’s 200m IM SM13
Zach Shattuck – men’s 50m butterfly S6
Noah Busch – men’s 50m freestyle S9
Trevor Lukacsko – men’s 100m butterfly S14
Other Team USA Results:
David Gelfand – 4th, men’s 100m breaststroke SB8
Rachel Keehn – 4th, women’s 100m backstroke S10
Piper Sadowski – 4th, women’s 100m butterfly S14
Maria Francescotti –5th, women’s 100m freestyle S9
Connor Gioffreda – 6th, men’s 50m butterfly S6
Braxton Wong – 7th, men’s 100m breaststroke SB8
Keegan Knott – 7th, women’s 100m freestyle S9
Abigail Kershaw – 8th, women’s 100m butterfly S14