The United States Olympic Committee joined the global Paralympic Movement in celebrating the two-year countdown to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 7, 2014. To commemorate the two-year milestone, the USOC shared thoughts from some of its top 2016 Paralympic hopefuls and distributed sport storylines and qualification procedures.
Rio-related content is being shared on USParalympics.org and the U.S. Paralympics Facebook and Twitter accounts using #2yearstogo, the worldwide hashtag for the countdown. The International Paralympic Committee will also be sharing content across social media platforms with #2yearstogo.
With the Opening Ceremony to be held Sept. 7, 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will become the first South American city to host a Paralympic Games. More than 4,350 athletes from 160 nations are expected to compete in 22 sports, including para-canoe and paratriathlon, both which debut on the Paralympic program in 2016.
The 2016 Paralympic Games, Sept. 7-18, follow the 2016 Olympic Games, Aug. 5-21, in the same venues.
QUALIFICATION AND SELECTION
An overview of qualification and selection procedures and key dates for each sport are available by clicking here.
A guide of athlete and sport storylines likely to unfold over the next two years are available by clicking here. Below is a sampling of Team USA’s top storylines heading into Rio.
Swimmer Jessica Long of Baltimore, Maryland, is aiming for her fourth consecutive Paralympic Games. She won her first of 12 Paralympic titles in 2004 at age 12.
- Paralympic inclusion: Two sports, para-canoe and paratriathlon, will debut on the Paralympic program at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. With three medal events in both men’s and women’s para-canoe, a total of 60 athletes are expected to compete in the debut of the sport, which is almost identical to canoeing for able-bodied athletes. The inaugural Paralympic Games paratriathlon event will feature a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run, and three of the five classification divisions will be contested. Men’s PT1 (wheelchair/handcycle) and men’s PT4 (limb deficiencies, impaired muscle power or range of movement) have been added, as well as women’s PT4. The remaining three medal events will be announced later this year.
- Increased coverage: U.S. media rights holders NBCUniversal and the USOC will build on its unprecedented coverage of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, March 7-16, with more coverage of the Games than ever before in 2016. The networks will air 66 hours of coverage of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, an increase of 60.5 hours from the coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, while TeamUSA.org and USParalympics.org will provide comprehensive online coverage.
- Sports and service: At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 20 active duty and veteran athletes competed for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team. Several of the athletes are making a run for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, including retired U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Maryland), a swimmer who won a gold medal on Sept. 7, 2012, the exact one-year anniversary of the improvised explosive device explosion in Afghanistan that cost him his vision. He returned to international competition in August, winning six gold medals and one bronze medal at the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships. Another military athlete in the mix is swimmer turned paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Illinois), retired, U.S. Army. Stockwell, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the first U.S. female solider injured in combat when a roadside bomb hit her Humvee in April 2004, resulting in the amputation of her left leg above the knee.
- Jessica Long-evity: While she will only be 24 years old at the 2016 Paralympic Games, Jessica Long of Baltimore, Maryland, is looking to make her fourth consecutive Paralympic appearance in 2016. Since her Paralympic debut as a 12 year old at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, where she won three gold medals, Long has gone on to become one of the most decorated Paralympic swimmers of all-time with a total of 17 medals. In 2014, Long continues to make strides. She held an on-camera role for NBC Olympics’ coverage of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in March then returned to the pool days later, winning multiple events at the Spring CanAm in Miami. Most recently, she set a world record at the Jimi Flowers Classic on June 21, swimming a 2:36.50 in the women’s 200-meter butterfly S8. She now holds 10 world records.
- Closing the gap: The U.S. Women’s National Sitting Volleyball Team, ranked second in the world, has met top-ranked China in the past two Paralympic Games (2008, 2012) and world championships (2010, 2014) in the gold-medal matches. Each time, the Chinese came away with the title. However, the U.S. won its first match over China in the 2013 Moscow Cup gold-medal match, and in March 2014, the U.S. defeated China twice in the Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge. At the 2014 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships, Team USA held two title match points over China before falling 17-15 in the fifth set. China has won all three Paralympic Games women’s sitting volleyball titles (2004, 2008, 2012), but Team USA is ready to top the leaderboard in Rio.
Journalists are welcome to use the following quotes from Team USA athletes for coverage of the two-year countdown. For additional quotes from hopefuls in sports including cycling, judo, swimming and wheelchair rugby, please click here.
- “Rio 2016 is all about getting revenge for us,” 2012 U.S. Paralympic wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki (Minneapolis, Minnesota) said. “After being upset in London and recently at world championships, our sole focus for the next two years is to get back on top of the podium and bring gold home. Some people talk about the Road to Rio, I call it the road to redemption. Rio can't get here soon enough.”
- “We are looking forward to the next two years and the Road to Rio,” said Jen Armbruster (Portland, Oregon), who is pursuing her seventh Paralympic appearance in goalball. “Our success at the world championships was very exciting as we have two years to get even more experience for our younger players. We were disappointed in our [eighth place] finish in London and now we have a chance to get back to the podium in the Paralympics. We will have a mix of veterans and newer players, which is exciting as Rio is probably the last Games for about half of the team who has been together since 2000.”
- “The team is ready to take on the challenge and we all want nothing less than the gold,” said sitting volleyball captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina), a 2008 and 2012 U.S. Paralympian. “We are going to push each other to become better than we were the day before and keep each other accountable to the team’s main goal. We have a group of athletes on this team, and they are all willing to do what it takes to win that gold for Team USA.”
- “It is hard to believe that the next Paralympic Games is just two years from now,” said swimmer Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland), a 12-time Paralympic gold medalist who is training for her fourth consecutive Paralympic Games. “Rio is going to come fast but when you’re focused on each week of training, time seems to slow down. That’s why it’s important for me to love what I am doing. I am still swimming because I still love the sport. When you get close to the Paralympics, the intensity and demands of training can get brutal, so you really have to love it. I love swimming and I love swimming for my country.”
- “I am so excited about Rio, I can hardly wait,” said four-time U.S. Paralympian Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Maryland), who has three gold, four silver and three bronze medals in track and field as well as a silver in cross-country skiing. “It’s such an iconic city, and I am looking forward to competing there, as well as cheering on my teammates. Although it’s still two years out, it will be here before we know it. It’s exciting to see the Paralympic Movement growing, and there’s no doubt that come 2016 all eyes will be on Rio.”
- “We are excited for the opportunity to build off of our recent silver medal at the world championships,” said two-time U.S. Paralympian Steve Serio (Westbury, New York), a member of the wheelchair basketball team. “We have a unique blend of talent and experience which will help our team accomplish our ultimate goal in bringing home the gold in Rio.”
- “The inclusion of paratriathlon into the 2016 Paralympic Games is exciting for all of us within the paratriathlon community,” said U.S. Army veteran Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Illinois), a three-time paratriathlon world champion who competed in swimming at the 2008 Paralympic Games. “Not only will it provide more opportunities for elite-level paratriathletes, but it will showcase our sport around the world as we compete among the world’s best athletes. As a new and continually growing sport, we hope to have a large contingent of U.S. athletes in Rio to pave the way for the years to come. Go USA.”