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Ten Unforgettable Team USA Celebrations From The Tokyo Paralympics

By Karen Price | Sept. 07, 2021, 11 a.m. (ET)

Hannah Aspden, Mikaela Jenkins, Jessica Long and Morgan Stickney celebrate winning the women’s 4x100m Medley Relay - 34 points at the  Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.


The Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are over, but for many of the medalists the weight of their accomplishments is only now beginning to sink in.

Here we relive some of their reactions to those memorable moments when they first realized what they had done. 

Women’s 4x100-Meter Medley 34 points, Swimming

Morgan Stickney had a big ask in front of her when she dove into the pool for the anchor leg of the women’s 4x100-meter medley 34 points. The U.S. was in fourth place, but the gold medalist in the 400-meter freestyle S8 caught Spain in the first 50 meters. Then she caught Australia. Finally, RPC. As Stickney approached the wall, teammate Jessica Long was at the edge clapping and cheering her in the whole way. She threw her arms in the air in celebration as Stickney touched, and the celebration was on for the gold medalists, who also included Hannah Aspden and Mikaela Jenkins.



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.

Evan Austin, Swimming

Evan Austin touched the wall, pulled off the black cap that Team USA swimmers wear in the finals and looked at the clock. Then he turned toward his teammates in the stands as the realization set in. He’d just won the gold medal in the men’s 50-meter butterfly S7. He let out a giant yell followed by a few “come ons!” as he jumped onto the rope then looked back at the scoreboard. He continued to point up at his ecstatic teammates cheering for their captain from the stands. It was the three-time Paralympian’s first gold, and it followed winning his first Paralympic medal earlier in the meet.

Sam Grewe celebrates after winning gold in the men’s high jump T63 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

Sam Grewe, Track & Field

Sam Grewe had just one chance left to win the gold medal in the men’s high jump T63 competition, and he got it at 1.88 meters. He leapt up from the pad in celebration, let out a few yells and the celebration was on. As the rain fell at the Olympic Stadium he got a hug from teammate Ezra Frech and congratulated his other fellow competitors, and in his post-race interview said he felt like he blacked out in the moment that he went for it. He stood up, the bar was still there and it washed over him, he said.

Robert Griswold celebrates winning the gold medal in the Men's 100-meter Butterfly S8 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.

Robert Griswold, Swimming

All Robert Griswold could think to do was yell. The Freehold, New Jersey, native touched the wall in the men’s 100-meter backstroke S8 not only first for a gold medal but also in world record time, and his voice carried throughout the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. He pulled off his cap and yelled again, fists raised in the air. Griswold talked to his competitors on either side as they looked up at the scoreboard and let out another yell. It was an outpouring to match the energy in the pool as he crushed the world record to win his first Paralympic gold medal. 

Elizabeth Marks shows her emotion during the medal ceremony for the Women's 100-meter Backstroke S6 Final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.

Elizabeth Marks, Swimming

Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks was one of three members of this year’s U.S. Paralympic Team who serves as active duty military, and she couldn’t contain her emotion as she heard the national anthem. After winning the 100-meter backstroke S6 and setting a new world record, Marks’ eyes slowly filled with tears as she stood tall atop the podium watching the U.S. flag rise high into the air. As the end her tears finally spilled over as she dropped her head, and her shoulders shook as she wiped her eyes.

Oksana Masters celebrates winning gold in the women's H5 road race at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.

Oksana Masters, Cycling

It isn’t always easy to read someone’s expression under the cover of a mask, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Masters as she received her gold medal in the women’s H4-5 time trial — becoming just the sixth American to claim a gold medal in both the Winter and the Summer Paralympics. First there was the obvious smile as she took her spot on the top of the podium and receiver her medal, then the furrowed brow and tears as the anthem played. But her chance to celebrate wasn’t over. Masters still had the road race H5, and as she crossed the finish line in first place she thrust her arm in the air, grabbed her head in disbelief and yelled. Covering her mouth like she still couldn’t believe it, she then broke down in tears.  As the camera finally got to her — along with the U.S. flag — she said hello to her mom and continued to cry, saying “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. Is it final?”

Trenten Merrill celebrates after winning bronze in the men's T64 long jump at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.

Trenten Merrill, Track & Field

Trenten Merrill stood with his arms outstretched, head back, eyes closed. After winning bronze in the men’s long jump T64 — five years after just missing the podium in fourth in Rio — Merrill’s reactions ranged from that stoic pose to loud and joyful as he posed with the flag and his fellow medalists, Germany’s Markus Rehm (gold) and France’s Dimitri Pavade (silver).

Anastasia Pagonis reacts after setting a new world record in the women's 400-meter freestyle S11 heat at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.

Anastasia Pagonis, Swimming

The 17-year-old swimmer from Long Island, New York, had a muted celebration in the pool after smashing her own world record and winning gold in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S11, but as she walked away the joy was evident. Anastasia Pagonis half walked, half hopped, a big smile breaking out across her face. At her medal ceremony she posed with the new hardware and afterwards treated her 2 million TikTok followers to a video captioned “my back hurt from carrying my gold medal.” 

Brad Snyder celebrates with his guide Greg Billington at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.

Brad Snyder And Guide Greg Billington, Triathlon

Brad Snyder knew what it felt like to win a race at the Paralympics, just not the way he did it in Tokyo. Already a seven-time medalist in swimming, he said before his Paralympic triathlon debut that he wanted to finish the PTVI race with a smile on his face, and that he did. As he and guide Greg Billington came down the final stretch of the run all alone, Snyder put his hands in the air. He hit the banner at the finish line, grabbed it and raised it overhead before Billington picked him up in an embrace.

Team USA celebrates their victory over Canada in the women's wheelchair basketball quarterfinal during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

Women’s Wheelchair Basketball

As the final seconds ticked off in the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball quarterfinal against Canada, the countdown from the sideline began. Three, two, one, and Courtney Ryan slammed the ball to the ground so it bounced high in the air as her teammates gathered around her at center court. They yelled, high-fived and embraced after their 63-48 victory that put them in the semifinals.

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.