Shawn Morelli poses with her medal on the podium after the women's C4 3000-meter individual pursuit event during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 25, 2021 in Izu, Japan.
Shawn Morelli had the distinction of winning the first U.S. medal at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 when she rode to a silver in the women’s C4 3,000-meter individual pursuit track cycling event on Wednesday.
Morelli had qualified for the gold-medal matchup at the Izu Velodrome against Australia’s Emily Petricola, but the Australian proved too strong for Morelli, the defending Paralympic champion from Rio. Petricola lapped Morelli in the finale to claim the gold.
“I think everybody (who falls short of defending a title) is a little bit (disappointed), but a medal at the Games is a medal at the Games,” Morelli said. “It still means you’re one of the best in the world. (Petricola) threw down an awesome ride, and she brought it. Now I know what I’ve got to do to get back to her.”
It won’t be easy for the 45-year-old Morelli of Meadville, Pennsylvania. Petricola, 41, set the world record in qualifying with a time of 3 minutes, 38.061 seconds for an average speed of 49.527 kilometers per hour. That performance also broke Morelli’s Paralympic record of 3:57.741, set in 2016 at Rio.
In qualifying for the finale against Petricola, Morelli had ridden to a time of 3:46.842, or an average of 47.610 kmh.
This was the second Paralympics for Morelli, who won gold in this event and in the road time trial in Rio. She also has won a total of 16 medals — including 12 golds — at world championship events.
“I love to compete and just being out there for everybody, not just for me but for my family, my friends, my country,” Morelli said. “I just wanted to really perform well and represent my team and, hopefully, everybody back home thinks I did.
“I’m thrilled being able to come out of the pandemic in as great shape as this and to earn a medal.”