Stetson Bardfield competes in the 10-meter air rifle prone SH2 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.
Stetson Bardfield didn’t even know if he was going to make it to Tokyo.
The 20-year-old was the last member added to the seven-person U.S. shooting team for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, earning his invite via an additional quota awarded by the International Paralympic Committee. He made the most of it, becoming the only member of Team USA to qualify for the finals of an event, finishing sixth in the R5 - mixed 10-meter air rifle prone SH2.
“I've had so many ups and downs and lots of times where I didn’t know if I was going to make it here,” Bardfield said afterward. “I’m just so grateful to be here now. It was hard fought training to get here and now that I’m here, well, I’m just happy.”
Bardfield posted a qualifying score of 635.6 then had a strong start to the finals and had the second-highest score after the initial 10-shot series. But Bardfield then posted a 10.0 and 10.2 in the first elimination series. A Parapan American Games Lima 2019 gold medalist in the same event, Bardfield immediately set his sights on what’s next.
“This has been absolutely incredible,” Bardfield said. “The lights are incredibly bright, but it was a lot of fun. I fought hard, and I intend on coming back to Paris and hopefully I can take my gold medal there.”
YanXiao Gong, Team USA’s lone pistol shooter at the Games, became the only other athlete to place in the top ten, doing so in two events. Gong just narrowly missed qualifying for the finals in both. In placing ninth in P1 - men’s air pistol SH1, Gong was just one point shy of the finals. And in his 10th place finish in P3 - mixed 25-meter pistol SH1, he was three points off the pace. He scored a 0 in the second rapid series which would have made the difference had he recorded a score.
“Instead of checking off and going over the mental list I’ve been going through, I just tried to enjoy it,” said Gong after his ninth-place men’s air pistol finish.
Gong has been competing internationally since 2019 when he earned Team USA a quota spot in the P3 - mixed 25-meter pistol SH1. Gong also finished 16th in P4 - mixed 50-meter pistol SH1 in Tokyo.