Team USA Glistens in Gold on Final Night of Competition
by Matt Whewell
TOKYO — It was night to remember as Team USA closed out the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 delivering a dominating performance en route to collecting a world record, four golds and five total medals to end the Tokyo Games in stunning fashion.
The headline victory of the night belonged to Elizabeth Marks (Colorado Springs, Colorado), who started the American’s medal haul with a win in the women’s 100-meter backstroke S6. Her world record time of 1:19.57 was over a second faster than any other competitor in the field and broke the previous record (1:21.43) by nearly two seconds. The win also gave Marks her fifth career Paralympic medal and second gold.
Next up in the pool Robert Griswold (Freehold, N.J.) earned his second gold medal of the Games by claiming the win in the men’s 100 butterfly S8. His time of 1:02.03 set an Americas record and put Griswold on the top step of the podium.
The second-most decorated Paralympian in history took to the water in the next event with the women’s 100 butterfly S8. Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland) led the race from start to finish and touched the wall in 1:09.87 for her third gold medal of these Games, 16th career gold and 29th career Paralympic medal.
Team USA’s dominance continued with a fourth win in a row as Evan Austin (Terre Haute, Indiana) grabbed his first-ever Paralympic gold grabbing the top spot in the men’s 50 butterfly S7. The Paralympic bronze medalist out-touched Ukraine’s Andrii Trusov by just five-one hundredths of a second, finishing in an Americas record time of 28.98.
Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minnesota), Julia Gaffney (Mayflower, Arkansas) and McKenzie Coan (Clarksville, Georgia) attempted to make it five consecutive event wins for Team USA in the women’s 50 butterfly S7. Weggemann secured the U.S.’ fifth podium appearance of the night after winning silver with a time of 34.30. It was her third medal of the Games and fifth Paralympic medal of her career.
Gaffney, the first-time Paralympian who won two bronze medals, added a top-five finish to her results in Tokyo finishing in 35.74. Coan, the three-time Paralympian who won a gold and silver medal in Tokyo, finished seventh in 37.47.
Two other U.S. swimmers appeared in the closing session for Para swimming. First-time Paralympian and two-time Paralympic medalist Anastasia Pagonis (Long Island, N.Y.) swam an Americas record 1:06.65 for fourth place in the women’s 100 freestyle S11. Two-time Paralympic champion Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana) finished seventh in 2:36.34 in the women’s 200 individual medley SM10.
Earlier in the day, Team USA saw Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) and the men’s 4x100 medley 34 points relay team of Joey Peppersack (Hopewell, Virginia), Zach Shattuck (Mt. Airy, Maryland), Matthew Torres (Ansonia, Connecticut) and Jamal Hill (Inglewood, California) take to the pool. Garcia-Tolson placed ninth overall in the men’s 50 butterfly S7 in 32.34. The relay team also finished ninth in 4:50.05.
Team USA concludes the Tokyo Games with 15 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 10 bronze medals. The 35 total medals are the most for swimming since winning 38 total medals in 2008.
TEAM USA MEDALS – DAY 10 (5)
- Elizabeth Marks (women’s 100m backstroke S6)
- Robert Griswold (men’s 100m butterfly S8)
- Jessica Long (women’s 100m butterfly S8)
- Evan Austin (men’s 50m butterfly S7)
Mallory Weggemann (women’s 50m butterfly S7)
There are so many people that put so much time and energy into me that I hope this just shows how grateful I am, and there's a lot of people who don't get the opportunity to race, so I try to do them proud as well.
Swimming is great, is a chance where I get to just zone out and put my body through as much pain as possible and enjoy the process. It's a few seconds or a few minutes of peace. So that's been lovely, my teammates have been wonderful, my training partner been pushing me and keeping me motivated and out of my head and then of course everyone that I get to compete against is just phenomenal talents, so it's been a lot of fun."
A lot people might feel pressure. I actually felt the opposite. I felt some freedom. Being a world champion, even if it's just for that day, that's the title that sticks with you. And so, on a day that I was asked to be the best in the world, I had already done that. All this stuff now is a bonus. Paralympic champion is obviously something I wanted but I just came in with the mindset that we'll see what happens. I was just excited to get the opportunity to race. I knew I was going to be in the fight, and I was going to really have a shot at being a Paralympic champion.
Day 10 is challenging. I truly have always said the Paralympics are for those who are super-mentally tough and that is what I tried to channel today because I was tired and hurting and sore, but I love swimming and I love to race and that is what I tried to do tonight.
I feel amazing, I knew that this was going to be a close race. This morning part of my plan was to kind of shake things up, go out there and set up a decent time. And it was a tight field and some, some of the top contenders didn't make it through but I was fortunate enough to do that.
For full results from the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, please visit Paralympic.org.
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