Paralympic Games countdown: Two dynamic duos
In recent years, Team USA has experienced a surge in team sport success, capturing gold medals in men’s wheelchair rugby, women’s goalball and women’s basketball at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Could 2012 be the year for pairs to shine? With two days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, meet two of the strongest duos on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team:
Oksana Masters and Rob Jones
Rob Jones (Lovettsville, Va.), who became a bilateral above knee amputee in July 2010 while serving as a U.S. Marine Sergeant in Afghanistan, and Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.) will compete in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls of rowing. It is the first Paralympic Games for both athletes, who qualified for the Games at the final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Belgrade, Serbia. Jones and Masters, who call themselves “Team Bad Company,” led from the start of the qualification race, holding off Brazil’s Isaac Ribeiro and Josiane Lima, a Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games bronze medalist and 2007 World Champion. Jones and Masters gained a 4.5-second lead by the halfway mark, and rowed away from the field, posting a 4:11.29, 6.9 seconds ahead of their competition. “Absolutely, we are ready to go for a world record,” Masters said of her goals for London. “Of course we want to win a gold medal, too, but we know exactly what time we have to get and we’re aiming for it.
Nick Taylor and David Wagner
Nick Taylor (Wichita, Kan.) and David Wagner (Hillsboro, Ore.), who compete in the quads division of wheelchair tennis, come to London as the two-time defending doubles champions. Currently ranked No. 2 in the world by the International Tennis Federation as a team, Wagner is ranked No. 1 in quad singles while Taylor has a No. 6 singles ranking. Wagner, who is the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games silver medalist, defeated Taylor in the bronze medal match in Beijing. “When I’m playing him, I don’t look at it as if it’s Nick Taylor, my doubles partner,” Wagner said. “I just look at it as it’s my next person in competition.” A doubles gold medal is likely for Taylor and Wagner and with singles success probable, a double gold medal performance is possible for one of the athletes too.