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With Trials In Minneapolis Complete, Meet The U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team

By Karen Price | June 20, 2021, 5:13 p.m. (ET)

Mallory Weggemann poses for a photo on Nov. 22, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.

 

From decorated veterans to talented newcomers, the collection of swimmers who will represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games this summer in Tokyo are ready to take on the world.

The 34-person team, consisting of 24 women and 10 men, was announced on Sunday following three days of record-breaking and standout performances at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis. Putting a tumultuous year of closed swimming pools and postponed Games behind them, the top Para swimmers in the country finally joined together at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota campus to showcase their years of hard work.

Leading the squad into Tokyo are Paralympic veterans including Jessica Long, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Evan Austin, McKenzie Coan and Mallory Weggeman.

Long, who competed in the Paralympics for the first time in Athens in 2004 at the age of 12, will be making her fifth trip to the Games. And if you think the Baltimore native is happy to let her legacy rest at the 23 medals she’s already collected, including 13 gold, you’d be wrong. The second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian in history is ready to do big things once again.

“I’m a veteran so I know when to perform under pressure in a very, very big Paralympic environment and and that’s what I’m really looking forward to,” she said at the conclusion of the trials on Saturday. “This job was to make the team and swim fast, and I feel like I did that. I did what I needed to. But in Tokyo is where I shine under pressure.”

Adding even more to their own already impressive Paralympic legacies are four women who will be competing for a third time.

Weggemann, from Eagan, Minnesota, made her Paralympic debut in 2012 and took gold in the 50-meter freestyle and bronze in the 34 pt. 4x100-meter medley. The reigning world champion in the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly has her eye on a return to the podium and a pair of world records as well.

Coan, from Clarkesville, Georgia, was a big winner in Rio, her second trip to the Games. The 100- and 400-meter freestyle are her best events, and she’s the reigning Paralympic and world champion in both. She also took gold in the 50 free and silver in the 34 pt. 4x100 free in 2016.

Becca Meyers will also become a three-time Paralympian this summer. The Baltimore native won silver in the 200-meter individual medley and bronze in the 100-meter freestyle in London, but broke out in Rio winning gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and 400-meter freestyle. She also set a couple world records in the process.

Colleen Young of St. Louis will compete in her third Paralympics as well. She won bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke in 2016.

Hannah Aspden, a Raleigh, North Carolina, native who at 16 was the youngest U.S. swimmer to medal at either the Olympics or Paralympics when she made her debut in 2016, will return for her second Games. She’s the defending bronze medalist in the 100-meter backstroke.

Fairplay, Colorado’s Sophia Herzog will also be making her second trip to the Paralympics, having debuted in Rio. She won a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Army sergeant and Prescott Valley, Arizona, native Ellie Marks, who toppled a couple of U.S. records this past weekend, will be returning to defend her gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke and see what else she can add to her collection in her second Paralympics. 

Lizzi Smith, from Austin, Texas, will also be returning to the Paralympics for a second time. She earned one silver and one bronze medal as a member of relays and finished just off the podium in both the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter backstroke in 2016.

Also making their second Paralympic teams are Martha Ruether, from Allegany, New York, McClain Hermes, from Dacula, Georgia, Cailin Currie, from Danvers, Massachusetts, and Natalie Sims, of Edina, Minnesota.

Eleven women will be making their Paralympic debuts. They are Julia Gaffney, from Mayflower, Arkansas, Mikaela Jenkins, from Evansville, Indiana, Keegan Knott, from Lake Villa, Illinois, Ahalya Lettenberger, from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Makayla Nietzel, from Crystal Lake, Illinois, Anastasia Pagonis, from Long Island, New York, Gia Pergolini, from Roswell, Georgia, Summer Schmit, from Grant, Minnesota, Haven Shepherd, from Carthage, Missouri, Leanne Smith, from Salem, Massachusetts, and Morgan Stickney, from Bedford, New Hampshire.

On the men’s side, Garcia-Tolson will be heading to his fifth Paralympics, joining Long as the only two members of the swim team to compete in that many editions of the Games. The Bloomington, California, native is a five-time medalist who also competed in track and field in London in 2012, and won silver in the 200-meter individual medley in 2016.

Austin, from Terre Haute, Indiana, will be returning to the Paralympics for a third time and the defending world champion in the 50-meter butterfly is ready to go for his first medal.

Freehold, New Jersey’s Robert Griswold, who won bronze in the 100-meter backstroke in his Paralympic debut in 2016, is ready to ascend further up the podium in Tokyo.

The remaining seven men are all Paralympic rookies. They are David Abrahams, from Havertown, Pennsylvania, Parker Egbert, from Greenwood, South Carolina, Jamal Hill, from Inglewood, California, Joey Peppersack, from Hopewell, Virginia, Lawrence Sapp, from Waldorf, Maryland, Zachary Shattuck, from Mt. Airy, Maryland, and Matthew Torres, from Ansonia, Connecticut. 

 

Karen Price

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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