Robert Griswold's World Record Leads Team USA's Four Medal Night
by Matt Whewell
TOKYO —Robert Griswold (Freehold, N.J.) and Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minnesota) lead the way for Team USA’s four medal haul on the third night of racing at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 inside the Tokyo Aquatic Center.
Griswold set the tone for the Americans with smashing a world record in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S8. Entering the night as the top seed, the now two-time Paralympic medalist managed to shave three seconds off of his morning swim and etched his name in the record books by finishing in 1:02.55. His teammate and training partner, Joseph Peppersack (Hopewell, Virginia) who is competing in his first Paralympic Games, placed seventh overall in his finals debut after touching the wall in 1:09.45.
On the women’s side of the event, five-time Paralympian Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland), added a bronze to her collection of 24 career Paralympic medals by finishing in 1:18.55. The most decorated active athlete at the Paralympics, Long returns to the pool on Saturday.
The women’s 200-meter individual medley SM7 saw Team USA take the top two stops of the podium as Weggemann and Ahalya Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) finished first and second, respectively. Weggemann, who set a Paralympic record earlier in the day, led the race from start to finish and touched the wall in 2:55.48 for her third career Paralympic medal. It was her first medal since 2012.
Swimming in the next lane to the three-time Paralympian, Lettenberger turned in a 3:02.82 swim. The first-time Paralympian remained in the middle of the pack over the first 150-meters before a 40.85 final split propelled her from fourth to second place for her first career Paralympic medal.
Other notable evening swims for Team USA included Evan Austin (Terre Haute, Indiana) and Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Colorado Springs, Colorado), who finished in fifth (2:32.53) and seventh (2:39.52), respectively, in the men’s 200-meter individual medley SM7.
Anastasia Pagonis (Long Island, New York), fresh off of her world record gold medal performance last night, finished seventh in the women’s 50-meter freestyle S11 in 31.22, and Makayla Nietzel (Crystal Lake, Illinois) bettered her time in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S13 by finishing in 4:47.45 for seventh place.
From the morning session, Cailin Currie (Salem, Massachusetts) placed ninth overall in the women's 400m freestyle S13 with a 4:50.11 swim. Julia Gaffney (Mayflower, Arkansas) was unfortunately disqualified in the women's 200-meter individual medley SM7. Matthew Torres (Ansonia, Connecticut) finished 10th in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S8 in 1:14.03.
Day four of racing continues tomorrow with the preliminary heats scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST and finals at 4 a.m. EST. All races will be live streamed through NBCOlympics.com, on Peacock and through the NBC Sports app. A full schedule of events is available here.
TEAM USA MEDALS – DAY THREE
- Robert Griswold (men’s 100m backstroke S8)
- Mallory Weggemann (women’s 200m individual medley SM7)
- Ahalya Lettenberger (women’s 200m individual medley SM7)
- Jessica Long (women’s 100m backstroke S8)
I worked for five years for this moment. 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.
I honestly wasn’t thinking 1:02.50. I hit the wall and saw that I was out at 30-something, and I said, ‘You know what, let’s just go for it’ and I went with. When I touched the wall I just screamed with joy because I was so happy to do the best I could for my country.
I feel really good. It’s number 24 and that was the goal. It’s been a long journey and gaining a lot of perspective but it’s exciting every single time I get to stand on that podium. Backstroke isn’t one of my top events, and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s 200-meter IM. For now, I wanted to get on that podium tonight. I’m proud of myself.
I’m overjoyed. It is such an honor to be at my third Paralympic Games and to be on top of the podium for the first time in what would be nine years on September 2. This has been a very long fight and there has been a lot of circumstances that have come around through this journey. 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.
I just can’t believe it. Every time I think about it, I get really emotional. It’s really amazing and I’m just grateful for everybody who has supported me. I wouldn’t be here without them especially my family, friends, and teammates and coaches at Rice University.