Team USA's Women's Relay Team Comes from Behind for First Gold Medal Since 2004
by Matt Whewell
TOKYO — On the penultimate day of swimming at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Team USA’s women’s 4x100-meter medley 34-point relay team captured the team’s 11th Paralympic gold medal in swimming, while Lizzi Smith (Muncie, Indiana) added a silver medal to her career tally of three.
To close out the ninth night of swimming, the women’s medley relay team of Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, N.C.), Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana), Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland) and Morgan Stickney (Cary, N.C.), came from behind in the final leg to give the Americans their first gold medal in the event since 2004.
Entering the water over five seconds behind the leader at the 300-meter mark, Stickney closed the gap to three three-hundredths of a second at the final turn, and then powered home a negative split to touch the wall first in 4:52.40. The win gives each of the swimmers their second gold medal of these Games and of their careers, with the exception of Long, in which this marks her 15th career Paralympic gold medal.
Finishing fourth in the event in 2016 at the Rio Paralympic Games, Smith hit the 50-meter mark in third but her 36.32 final split elevated her to the next step of the podium for her first individual Paralympic silver medal. She finished in 1:08.22 and just one-tenth of a second off of her personal best time swam at the 2019 World Championships.
American teammate and first-time Paralympian Summer Schmit (Stillwater, Minnesota) finished sixth in 1:12.95. She wraps up her first international competition with five top-10 finishes.
The morning qualifying heats saw additional U.S. faces in the water. Zach Shattuck (Mt. Airy, Maryland) finished ninth overall in the men’s 400-meter freestyle S6 with a personal best 5:29.95. Jenkins, who was part of the women’s 4x100-meter medley 34-point relay team, just missed the final in the 100-meter backstroke S10 by finishing ninth in 1:14.00.
First-time Paralympians Parker Egbert (Greenwood, S.C.) and Lawrence Sapp (Waldorf, Maryland) finished 12th and 14th in the men's 100-meter backstroke S14 in 1:03.12 and 1:04.53, respectively.
The final 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 NINE (2)
- Hannah Aspden (women’s 100m medley relay 34 point)
- Mikaela Jenkins (women’s 100m medley relay 34 point)
- Jessica Long (women’s 100m medley relay 34 point)
- Morgan Stickney (women’s 100m medley relay 34 point)
- Lizzi Smith (women’s 100m butterfly S9)
My coach and I talk about the yin and yang. You’ve got to be nervous, and you’ve got to be excited. But the excited needs to lead the way and excited led the way today.
In Rio, I was terrified. I remember right before I walked out [onto the pool deck] wanting to turn around and run away. This time I was able to focus on my breathing and my tempo - I was excited, it was fun.
It's absolutely incredible. I came into these Games just being so thankful that I had this opportunity to be able to compete. I didn’t think I would be going home with a medal, never mind two gold medals. To be able to stand here with these amazing girls is incredible. I'm so proud of them.
We did everything in our power and control to be the best we could be, and the outcome speaks for itself. There was this really powerful look between each of us, that we knew we could do it and we didn't even have to say anything. We just a look with each other and a nod. We know what we're capable of, and we proved it out in the pool today.
For full results from the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, please visit Paralympic.org.
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