U.S. Paralympics Swimming Nominates 25 athletes to World Championship Roster
by Kristen Gowdy
Leanne Smith competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. (Photo: Mark Reis)
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – Following an action-packed weekend at the 2022 Para Swimming World Series in Indianapolis, U.S. Paralympics Swimming today announced the 25 athletes selected to represent Team USA at the 2022 Para Swimming World Championships in June in Madeira, Portugal.
Highlighted by three world record marks from Paralympic silver medalist Leanne Smith (Salem, Massachusetts), the three-day world series stop saw U.S. athletes take home nearly 50 medals, and results were used to determine the roster headed to the world championships. Of the 25 athletes nominated, 23 competed at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“The Para Swimming World Series in Indianapolis served as the first major international competition post Tokyo for many of our athletes. The athletes named to the world championship roster stepped up, performed well and earned their ticket to Portugal,” Erin Popovich, director of U.S. Paralympics Swimming, said. “This is a team largely composed of veteran athletes who have raced on the world’s biggest stages, and we look to them to lead the way for the up-and-coming athletes making their world championship debut.”
Leanne Smith set the pace for Team USA in Indianapolis, earning world records in three of the five events in which she competed. She headlines a formidable group of women’s swimmers that includes 29-time Paralympic medalist Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland) and Paralympic champions Anastasia Pagonis (Long Island, N.Y.), McKenzie Coan (Clarkesville, Georgia), Elizabeth Marks (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Morgan Stickney (Cary, North Carolina), Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana), Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, North Carolina), Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minnesota) and Gia Pergolini (Atlanta, Georgia). In the mixed-class world series races, Pagonis, Stickney, Marks and Aspden each swam to at least one gold medal.
Paralympic medalists Colleen Young (St. Louis, Missouri), Elizabeth Smith (Muncie, Indiana), Sophia Herzog (Fairplay, Colorado), Julia Gaffney (Mayflower, Arkansas) and Ahalya Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) are also set to compete in Madeira. Lizzi Smith, Lettenberger, Gaffney and Herzog all swam to medals in Indianapolis.
2020 Paralympians McClain Hermes (Dacula, Georgia) and Summer Schmit (Stillwater, Minnesota), as well as 15-year-old Audrey Kim (Salt Lake City, Utah) were also named to the roster. Hermes is a world champion, having won the 400m freestyle in the women’s S11 class in 2017. She also has a pair of silvers and a pair of bronzes from 2017.
Both Schmit and Kim earn their first world championships berth, and Kim’s major competition debut. Schmit competed at Tokyo 2020, where she swam to a fifth-place finish in the women’s 200m individual medley SM9. Schmit and Kim round out the women’s roster, which has combined for a career 67 Paralympic medals.
Robert Griswold (Freehold, New Jersey), who led the way for the U.S. men with double gold in Tokyo, continued his success in Indianapolis, earning two golds and a bronze on the weekend. Teammates and 2020 Paralympic medalists Matthew Torres (Ansonia, Connecticut) and Jamal Hill (Inglewood, California) punched their tickets to Portugal following their performances in the men’s 400m freestyle and 50m freestyle, respectively. Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) also impressed with two podium appearances as the five-time Paralympian looks toward what he says will be his last major international swimming competition as he transitions full-time to paratriathlon.
2020 Paralympians Abbas Karimi (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Parker Egbert (Greenwood, South Carolina), as well as Morgan Ray (St. Augustine, Florida) round out the men’s roster for Madeira.
Karimi is set to make his first official appearance as a member of the United States team after competing for the Refugee Paralympic Team in Tokyo. Karimi recently earned his American citizenship after leaving Afghanistan, his home country, at 16 years old. He has lived and trained in the United States since 2016, and has previously competed at two world championships, including a silver medal performance in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 in 2017.
This will mark the world championships debut for both Egbert and Ray, both up-and-coming swimmers looking to show their speed and talent in Portugal. Last summer, 18-year-old Egbert qualified for the Tokyo Paralympic Team, while Ray competed at the 2019 Parapan American Games, where he finished fourth in the 100m breaststroke.
The 2022 Para Swimming World Championships are set to run from June 12-18 at the Penteada Olympic Swimming Complex. The last Para swimming world championships, which took place in London in 2019, featured 637 athletes from 77 nations.
For media requests and inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.
Elizabeth “Lizzi” Smith