RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Today the U.S. Cycling team had a strong showing on day one of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, as four women won medals at the velodrome, highlighted by two hotly contested races.
First-time Paralympian, Jamie Whitmore (Mount Aukum, California), who qualified with a time of 4:11.778 in the C1-2-3 3000m individual pursuit in the morning session, was the first American cyclist to medal as she took on Great Britain’s world record holder Megan Giglia, in the gold medal final. Whitmore had a strong showing in the race but was passed by Giglia for the gold.
For Whitmore, who has only been competing in track cycling for a little more than three years, winning silver on the first day of competition was an accomplishment that was hard to put in to words.
“To be here is amazing. From all the doctors who helped save my life, to all the people who have been on this journey with me, it’s not just me, it’s all of them,” said Whitmore. “For me, I am so over the moon with silver. To get a silver in something that is hard for me makes me ecstatic.”
After Whitmore’s silver medal-winning performance to start the night, the wins kept coming for the Americans.
Next up was two-time Paralympic medalist, Megan Fisher (Missoula, Montana) who competed in the C4 3000m bronze medal race against New Zealand’s Katherine Horan. The race was incredibly close throughout as both competitors fought hard for the lead. Despite falling behind by nearly four seconds at the 2000-meter mark, Fisher was able to keep Horan in her sights, eventually passing her at the finish line to win with an overall time of 4:04.081. Fisher finished just .356 ahead of Horan who posted a time of 4:04.437.
“I had no idea where I was,” admitted Fisher. “The helmets are awesome but they block out sound and also limit how far ahead you can see. It’s hard to spy and see where you are on the track. Sometimes crowds will give you a hint but I really had no idea.”
Next up in the C4 3000m individual pursuit gold medal final was U.S. Army veteran and first-time Paralympian Shawn Morelli (Meadville, Pennsylvania). Morelli, who is the current world record holder in the event and broke the Paralympic record this morning, did not disappoint in tonight’s final. Morelli was the only competitor to post a time under four minutes in the event, finishing the race in 3:59.407, which was more than five seconds faster than her closest competitor.
Competing at a high-level event with an energetic crowd and in front of her friends and family certainly left an impression on Morelli.
“My husband who is in the Army was able to make the trip over here to see this race and that just meant the world to me. My mom is here and that was her first time on an airplane…I am just so happy they were here to see that,” said Morelli. “I am also really happy that I was able to perform in front of these fans and in this great country.”
In the last, and arguably the most exciting race of the day for the U.S., Samantha Bosco (Spring Hill, Florida) defeated Poland’s Anna Harkowska by the narrowest of margins to claim bronze in the C5 3000m individual pursuit. Bosco, who like Fisher had to battle to catch her competitor, finished with a time of 3:54.697, just .004 ahead of Harkowska who finished at 3:54.701 in a race that got Bosco and spectators alike very excited.
“I didn’t know it was that close,” noted Bosco. “All I could tell was that people in the stands and the infield were yelling so loudly that I had to go that strong or I was going to be in big trouble.”
The U.S. will take to the track again tomorrow for the second day of competition, when the men will make their debut in Rio. Marine Corps veteran Scott Martin (Oceanside, California), along with Chris Murphy (Rancho Cucamonga, California) will compete in the C4-5 1000m time trial, while Billy Lister (Cold Spring Harbor, New York) will compete in the 3000m individual pursuit. Three-time Paralympic medalist Joe Berenyi (Oswego, Illinois) will also be in action tomorrow; he is scheduled to race in the C3 3000m individual pursuit, an event he won gold in at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Visit USParalympics.org/Rio2016 for more information on Team USA at the Paralympic Games, including athlete bios, team history and links to competition schedules. Follow the U.S. Paralympic team on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.