CHARLOTTE, N.C. – U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, hosted a media day at the Charlotte Convention Center this morning to preview the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials – Swimming and Track & Field. The Trials will take place June 30-July 2 and is the sole opportunity for athletes to compete and qualify to make the U.S. team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The U.S. Paralympics Cycling Time Trial will also take place in Charlotte the same weekend.
Paralympic hopefuls, and North Carolina natives, Tucker Dupree (Raleigh, North Carolina), Jill Moore (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Paul Peterson (Charlotte, North Carolina) started the press conference by stating what it will be like to have the Trials in their home state.
“Being in my home state is something I am super excited about,” Dupree said. “This is my third time going to Trials and it’s really the stepping stone of getting to the Games. I have been so fortunate to stand on the podium and see the flag raised. It is quite an experience.”
“It’s incredible to be home,” Moore noted. “The fact that this is coming to Charlotte is just monumental for me. It’s finally a culmination of all the dreams I worked for and it’s happening here at home in my own backyard.”
Peterson discussed how his training partner and Olympic hopeful, Trentavis Friday (Cherryville, North Carolina), has allowed him to compete at the highest level. “Training in Charlotte as a Paralympic hopeful allows me to do any workout he is doing with him,” Peterson claimed. “I go out and run just as hard and he doesn’t give me any pity. I couldn’t believe that he actually came to the Johnson C. Smith University training center and started running track.”
Doug Youngblood, president of Partner for Parks, spoke after the athletes finished talking and could not wait to express why his city is the perfect choice for hosting such a spectacular event.
“We knew this was something we had to do,” Youngblood said. “We were excited when our proposal won and we are even more excited today. We knew that this was something that would be good for the community. That’s what we are trying to do. Trying to get people involved. We know we will have an amazing event."
Julie O’Neil, managing director of U.S. Paralympics, discussed just how vital a city of Charlotte’s stature is to the Trials.
“All of our swimmers and all of our track and field athletes need to come through Charlotte to get to Rio this year, so Trials is very significant,” O’Neil said. “We are so thrilled to be coming to Charlotte for this competition. We want to thank Partners for Parks for putting on the event and being such great partners to host this event here in Charlotte. Our sponsors BP and Coca-Cola have also been great supporters to help us bring this event to Charlotte.”
O’Neil praised Charlotte because of its ability to host multiple events in one weekend. “One of the greatest things about coming here was the ease and securing of topnotch venues. That is typically one of the most difficult things for us to do, and the ability to get venues for three sports in the same city has been unprecedented.”
O’Neil then presented two racing wheelchairs to the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation department and two handcycles to Partners for Parks on behalf of the United States Olympic Committee. The donations were made possible via grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.
Chairman Trevor M. Fuller of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissions completed the press conference with closing remarks about why U.S. Paralympics and the City of Charlotte are a perfect pairing.
“We are so delighted to have the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials here in Charlotte,” Fuller stated. “Charlotte is a can-do place. We believe in getting things done and we believe in getting them done right, while having a great time doing it. The fact that athletes will come out of Charlotte to compete in the Paralympic Games in Rio is just so exhilarating and wonderful. We are so proud to have this opportunity.”
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be the largest in history, with more than 4,500 athletes from 176 countries expected to compete. The Paralympic Games is the third largest sporting event in the world. Complete details about the Trials can be found at USParalympics.org/2016TeamTrials.
The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials – Swimming and Track & Field will be held June 30 – July 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and are hosted by Partners for Parks. Thanks to support from The Coca-Cola Company and BP, the multi-sport Trials will host more than 400 athletes who will compete for a chance to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit USParalympics.org/2016TeamTrials.