Evan Austin celebrates winning the gold medal in the Men's 50-meter Butterfly S7 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
TOKYO – The U.S. national anthem filled the Tokyo Aquatics Centre four times on Friday night as Team USA closed out the para swimming competition in Tokyo with four straight gold medals.
Veterans Robert Griswold, Jessica Long, Elizabeth Marks and Evan Austin all captured gold in their final swims at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Mallory Weggemann added to her medal count with a silver.
In total, Team USA para swimmers won 35 medals at the Tokyo Paralympics – 15 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze. Jessica Long earned the most individual medals (two gold, two silver, one bronze) in addition to her gold with the women’s 4x100-meter Medley Relay 34 points. Ten medals out of the total 35 were won by first-time Paralympians.
Team USA’s Evan Austin provided a moment to remember on the last night of Para swimming at the Tokyo Games. The three-time Paralympian won his first gold medal in the men’s 50-meter butterfly S7, exploding in celebration when he realized he touched the wall first.
In a close finish, Austin won gold in 28.98, followed by Ukrainian Andrii Trusov in 29.03 for silver and Colombian Carlos Daniel Serrano Zarate in 29.34 for bronze. Austin came into the Paralympic final as the reigning world campion.
“I’m filled with gratitude,” Austin said. “It’s been a really unbelievable ride. I’m so thankful for my family, my friends and this village of support I’ve had for the entire journey. I really wouldn’t be here without them.”
Outside of his gold-medal moment, Austin has been soaking up all the love and support from his teammates on Team USA. One of three co-captains for the Tokyo Games, he said he’s thankful the team trusts him to be a leader.
“Seeing members of this team get more excited for the results of their teammates than for their individual results has been really inspiring and encouraging. This is a long meet. Ten days really starts to grind but we had success throughout and I think that kept us motivated. I love the spirit of this U.S. team. This is a great way to end the meet after 10 long days, and we’re having an absolute haul today. I think that's a testament to this team’s belief in one another and our abilities and the fact that we’re not going to quit until the very end.”
The Indiana native made his debut at the Paralympic Games London 2012. While he’s been a constant on the men’s side of U.S. Para swimming, Austin had not secured a top-five Paralympic finish until Tokyo, where he won gold and bronze. He hoped that the younger swimmers can learn something from his journey in the sport.
“Fight the good fight,” Austin said. “This is a long process, and some of them won’t end like mine is now and that’s okay. It really is. Because of the hours you spend in the pool, the friendships you make and the bonds that you forge just by grinding every day…it really helps you shape who you are as a human. I’m going to take away lesions from this sport that will extend a lot longer than whatever time I went.”
Austin wasn’t sure what his next step in Para swimming will be. He plans to take time off when he gets back to the U.S. to evaluate what’s next. Most importantly, he plans to share this gold medal with the people he loves most. He got choked up thinking about the moment.
“Hugs and tears. I’m surrounded by a family that loves me so fiercely and has given so much for me to be here,” Austin said. “I just really cannot wait to see them.”