The male Para athletes of Team USA won world titles, broke records and cemented themselves as the top performers in their respective sports this year, but who will be the Paralympic Male Athlete of the Year?
The finalists in the 2019 Team USA Awards, presented by Dow, Best of the Year, are Joe Berenyi, Noah Elliott, Robert Griswold, Daniel Romanchuk and Ben Thompson, and now you can help choose the winner.
Online fan voting accounts for 50 percent of the vote and closes end of day Monday, Oct. 28. The other 50 percent of the vote comes from members of the Olympic and Paralympic community. Award winners will be announced during a ceremony held on Nov. 19 at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. NBC will provide coverage of the awards show from 3-4 p.m. ET on Dec. 22.
Voting is open now at TeamUSA.org/Awards. Here’s more about the athletes up for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.
Hometown: Aurora, Illinois
What He Did: Berenyi came home from the track world championships with a rainbow of medals, winning gold in the MC3 kilo time trial, silver in the scratch race and bronze in the team sprint in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. He also won a medal of each color at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019: gold in the 1-kilometer time trial, silver in 3,000-meter pursuit and bronze in the men’s road race.
Why It Mattered: Berenyi’s title in the MC3 kilo time trial was his fifth in a row and his three medals gave him a total of 10 gold medals at the world championships between 2015 and 2019.
Fun Fact: The Paralympic gold medalist didn’t start competing in Para-cycling until 2009 and competed in the national championships for the first time in 2010.
What’s Next: There are a number of domestic races for the cycling team starting in December, but the biggest thing coming up on the calendar is the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Ontario, starting Jan. 30.
Sport: Para snowboarding
Hometown: St. Charles, Missouri
What He Did: In his world championship debut, Elliott fell in qualifying but came back to win the gold medal in snowboardcross in Pyha, Finland, and also earned the bronze medal in the snowboardcross team event. Earlier in the season he won gold in the men’s LL1 banked slalom at a world cup event.
Why It Mattered: Elliott continues on an upward trajectory after winning gold at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 just one year after joining Team USA and three years after having his left leg amputated above the knee from bone cancer.
Fun Fact: Elliott is a seasoned public speaker who frequently shares his story. After speaking to the workers building the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum recently, he signed the structure of the museum.
What’s Next: The world cup season opens Nov. 6 and the first big stop for snowboardcross will be in Pyha, site of Elliott’s world championship victory, beginning Nov. 30.
Sport: Para swimming
Hometown: Freehold, New Jersey
What He Did: Griswold defended his 2017 world title in the 100-meter backstroke S8 and won gold in the men’s 200-meter individual medley SM8 plus silver in the 400-meter freestyle S8 and the men’s 100-meter butterfly S8 at the world championships. Earlier in the year he crushed the world record and became the first man in the S8 class to swim the 50-meter backstroke in under 30 seconds with his performance at the World Para Swimming World Series finale.
Why It Mattered: Defending a world title is never easy, yet Griswold’s finish in the 100-meter backstroke was nearly six seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. He also set Pan American records in the 200-meter IM and in the 400-meter freestyle.
Fun Fact: Griswold led Team USA into the first night of the world championships carrying the U.S. flag, something he described on social media as “one of the greatest honors.”
What’s Next: The World Para Swimming Series kicks off in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 14, 2020. Griswold will try to earn a spot in Tokyo at the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for cycling, swimming and track and field in Minneapolis beginning June 25.
Sport: Para track and field
Hometown: Mount Airy, Maryland
What He Did: Romanchuk scored his first major marathon win with Chicago in 2018 and followed that up with a victory in New York. Then in 2019 he finished second in Tokyo and won Boston and London to go undefeated in the major marathons. He also dominated on the track, beating his own world record to win the T54 5,000-meter at the grand prix in Nottwil, Switzerland.
Why It Mattered: Romanchuk outsprinted Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, then-reigning king of the marathons and defending Paralympic champion, to win in Chicago. He became the first American man and the youngest ever to win the New York Marathon and with his success over the last year is now the one to beat in Tokyo in 2020.
Fun Fact: Romanchuk got to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game in June this year to help celebrate the BAA 10K.
What’s Next: The New York Marathon will be held Nov. 3, but the biggest thing next year is the Paralympic Games. Romanchuk earned his spot on the team with his win at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
Sport: Para archery
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina
What He Did: Thompson won his first-ever men’s compound world championship title, and he did it by upsetting the top-ranked archer in the world, teammate Matt Stutzman, in the semifinal before beating Turkey’s Murat Turan with one arrow remaining in the final. He also helped Team USA to a world record in the compound men’s open team ranking round.
Why It Mattered: Heading into the Paralympic year, Thompson is now the No. 1 men’s compound Para archer in the world. He also locked up a third and final Paralympic quota spot for the U.S. team with his performance.
Fun Fact: Thompson uses a number of techniques to help with the mental part of the sport, including the mantra “Be happy aiming.”
What’s Next: Thompson secured a quota spot and his top priority is now ensuring that he gets to fill it through the Paralympic team trials. The first of three stages will be the Arizona Cup beginning April 3 in Phoenix, Arizona.