Taekwondo Preview
Para taekwondo is set to make its Parapan Am Games debut in Lima with the U.S. sending a seven-member team who all rank high in the World Taekwondo rankings. Only K44 divisions (the chosen Paralympic division for the sport’s debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games) will be contested at the Parapan Am Games. The K44 division is the least impaired class with athletes able to move, kick and strategize similar to their Olympic counterparts.

Taekwondo athletes at the Parapan Am Games will earn G-4 level points toward qualification for the 2020 Paralympic Games. Team USA will also use the event to size up their competition in the Pan Am region in advance of next year’s continental qualifier.

In the men’s K44 +75kg division, the American squad will be represented by three athletes ranked in the world top-10: Second-ranked Evan Medell (Grand Haven, Mich.), eighth-ranked Corbin Stacey (Cleveland, Ohio) and 10th-ranked Johnny Birch (Deland, Fla.). 

Medell is coming off a win at the Pan Am Para Open Taekwondo Championships held in June in Portland, Ore., where Birch was third and Stacey placed fifth.

The men’s K44 -75kg division will feature ninth-ranked Felix Sabates (Cooper City, Fla.) and 12th-ranked Michael Kacer (Cary, N.C.). At the Pan Am Para Open Championships in June, Sabates placed fifth and Kacer was ninth.

The two women on the U.S. team will compete in separate divisions, but both are still ranked in the top 10. Brianna Salinaro (Massapequa, N.Y.) is ranked fifth in the female K44-58kg class, while Sophie Gimeno (Miami, Fla.) is ninth in the K44 -49kg division. Salinaro took the bronze medal at this year’s Pan Am Para Open, while Gimeno was fifth.