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Gianfranco Iannotta Wins Team USA's First Paralympic Track Gold Medal Of Rio Games

By Brianna Tammaro | Sept. 10, 2016, 9:01 p.m. (ET)

Gianfranco Iannotta races to gold in the 100-meter T52 at the 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Gianfranco Iannotta (Garfield, New Jersey) set the tone at Saturday’s morning session, capturing the United States’ first gold medal on the track as the team took home one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the Olympic Stadium.

Iannotta pulled off the upset of the day when he defeated reigning Paralympic champion and U.S. teammate Raymond Martin (Jersey City, New Jersey) in the men’s 100-meter T52. Iannotta crossed the finish line in 17.17 seconds, ahead of Martin with a time of 17.25.

“It means everything,” Iannotta said. “I’ve trained so hard. I’ve been wanting to do that for so long, especially in the 100 because that’s my favorite event so it really means everything to me.”

Martin, who won all four events he entered in London including the 100, is the world record holder in the event and will face Iannotta again in the 400 semifinals on Monday.

“It’s always a challenge going against Ray," Iannotta said. “He's an incredible racer, very fast, very resilient. I knew it was going to be a challenge from the start."

Kerry Morgan (St. Louis, Missouri) smashed her personal best with a time of 1:08.31 to claim bronze in the women’s 400 T52. The three-time Paralympian and 2012 bronze medalist in the event didn’t waste any time getting to the medal stand in Rio, winning her first piece of hardware in her debut race.

“It feels awesome to put on the USA jersey and go out there knowing you did your best,” Morgan said. “I just really wanted to push a good, clean race and I was able to do that.”

Sixteen-year-old Alexa Halko (Williamsburg, Virginia), the youngest member of the U.S. track & field team, showed composure beyond her years in the women’s 100 T34, edging Netherlands’ Amy Siemons by one-hundredth of a second to win bronze at her first Paralympic Games.

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“It was a super fast track,” Halko said. “I’m with all of these amazing 34’s and it was just awesome to race against them."

The teenager, who competed at her first international meet with Team USA in 2015, will compete in the 400 semifinal on Tuesday and her signature event, the 800 final on Friday, in which she is the world record holder.

“This race gave me a taste of how everything is going to be so I’m really excited for my next events,” she said.

The U.S. put in a strong showing in the qualifying rounds on Friday evening. In the 100, the following athletes advanced to the event finals: Roderick Townsend (Stockton, California) in the T47 class, Shaquille Vance (Houston, Mississippi) and Regas Woods (Ocala, Florida) in the T42 class, Deja Young (Mesquite, Texas) in the T47 class, David Brown (St. Louis, Missouri) and Jerome Avery (Lemoore, California) in the T11 class, and Kym Crosby (Yuba City, California) in the T13 class. In the men’s and women’s 400 T53 preliminaries, Team USA’s Brian Siemann (Millstone, New Jersey), Josh George (Herndon, Virginia), Chelsea McClammer (Richland, Washington) and Shirley Reilly (Tucson, Arizona) will all compete for medals.

Visit USParalympics.org/Rio2016 for more information on Team USA at the Paralympic Games, including athlete bios, schedule and live streaming. Follow the U.S. Paralympic team on social media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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