Morgan Stickney and Mikaela Jenkins Win First Career Gold Medals En Route to Team USA’s Five Medal Night
by Matt Whewell
TOKYO — Team USA tallied five more to the medals table on the seventh night of racing at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Morgan Stickney (Cary, North Carolina) and Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana) led the way with their first career Paralympic golds.
Entering the evening with the number one seed in women’s 400-meter freestyle S8 alongside fellow American Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland), Stickney trailed the five-time Paralympian through the first 350 meters. Stickney, who was appearing in her first individual Paralympic event final, overtook the lead in the last 50-meters thanks to a 33.79 final split, and touched the wall in 4:42.39. Long’s time of 4:43.41 gave the teammates a 1-2 podium finish and her fifth career Paralympic medal in the event.
Another first-time medal winner was Jenkins in the women’s 100-meter butterfly S10. Jenkins, who is the 2019 world champion in the event, used the first 50 meters as an opportunity to attack off the turn. The strategy paid off as she clocked a 1:07.52 and added the title of Paralympic champion to her name.
Matthew Torres (Ansonia, Connecticut) started the night off for Team USA in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S8. Torres, who was also swimming in his first Paralympic final, finished in an Americas record time of 4:28.47 and won the bronze medal. Teammate Robert Griswold (Freehold, New Jersey) placed fifth in 4:31.96.
The other American medal winner was McKenzie Coan (Clarksville, Georgia), picked up her sixth career Paralympic medal by adding a silver medal to her collection. Coan’s time of 1:10.22 in the women’s 100-meter freestyle S7 only trailed Italy’s Giulia Terzi’s Paralympic record of 1:09.21.
In the same event, U.S. teammates Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minnesota) and Julia Gaffney (Mayflower, Arkansas) finished in 1:11.98 and 1:15.70, respectively, good for fifth and eighth place overall.
Leanne Smith (Salem, Massachusetts) captured a top-five finish in the women's 50-meter breaststroke SB3 with a 1:02.95, while Natalie Sims (Edina, Minnesota) finished seventh in the women's 100-meter freestyle S9 with a final time of 1:03.85.
Other Team USA performances from earlier in the day include Lawrence Sapp and Parker Egbert in the men’s 200-meter individual medley SM14, which finished 12th and 17th, respectively, in 2:17.89 and 2:22.58. In the women’s 100-meter freestyle S9 heats, Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, N.C.) swam a 1:05.35 and Summer Schmit (Stillwater, Minnesota) touched in 1:07.71 to finished 11th and 15th, respectively.
The eighth day of racing continues tomorrow with preliminary heats scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST with finals starting 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 SEVEN (5)
- Morgan Stickney (women’s 400m freestyle S8)
- Mikaela Jenkins (women’s 100m butterfly S10)
- Jessica Long (women’s 400m freestyle S8)
- McKenzie Coan (women’s 100m freestyle S7)
- Matthew Torres (men’s 400m freestyle S8)
Everything I've been through in the past few years kind of flashed before my eyes. I remember sitting in the hospital just dreaming of being able to go to the Paralympic Games, and then the pandemic happened, and then coming here became a reality.
I’m still trying to find words to describe the feeling. It's a mixture of relief, pure joy and excitement. It's crazy. I feel like this is something that doesn't happen to a lot of people, and I am very thankful I was able to pull it out.
I knew that I was a first half swimmer and I felt really good. I definitely had that feeling at 300, but I knew Morgan [Stickney] was going to be there in that last 75. It never feels good to get touched out but at the same time, with it being a teammate, I wouldn't have it any other way.
An event like the 100 free is really difficult, especially for someone like me. Even though I won it in Rio, and I won the 50 in Rio, I still don’t consider myself a sprinter. I’m a bit older here, and the age and the sprinting might have something to do with it, but it’s a hard event to maintain excellence in.
It was a pretty tiring and long race – definitely one of the longer races I’ve felt even though I’ve swum the distance so many times. But it feels good to finally know that all the hard work over the last 13 years has paid off. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way, whether it’s my parents, my coaches, my teammates, people in the community overall, just supporting me.