Team USA Swimmers take home five medals on day one of the 2015 Parapan American Games

By Annemarie Blanco | Aug. 08, 2015, 8:40 p.m. (ET)

Ahalya Lettenberger (center) and Mallory Weggemann (left) each took home medals on the first day of competition in Toronto.

TORONTO – Team USA made its mark on the first day of competition at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, winning one gold, one silver and three bronze medals to open the eight-day long competition.

Leslie Cichocki (Palos Hills, Illinois) was the first to take home a medal for the U.S., winning bronze in the women’s 200-meter freestyle S14 clocking a time of 2:26.07. Cichocki was just shy of beating out Canadian silver medalist Kirstie Kaso who came in at 2:25.13.

Team USA gained momentum heading into the second half of the day’s evening session with 14-year-old Ahayla Lettenberger (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) taking home the sole swimming gold medal of the day in the women’s 100 backstroke S8 finishing the race in 1:24.41. Teammate Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minnesota) took the podium alongside her clocking in at 1:27.74 for the bronze.

"I really pulled at the water and I worked on my finish," Lettenberger said. "And that got me gold."

Paralympian Tom Miazga (Cedarburg, Wisconsin) landed on the podium with a silver medal in the men’s 100 backstroke after finishing in 1:13.49. In her second Parapan American appearance, Haley Bernanbaum (Snohomish, Colorado) took third place after tapping the wall at 1:48.60 in the women’s 100 freestyle S5 in her first swim of the competition.

“I went and gave it my all,” said Miazga.  “I swam as hard as I could. I was so excited and obviously there was some first swim jitters. I went in and stuck to my plan the entire way. The time was a little rough. Hoping for a little better swim but I got on the podium and that's what I'm here to do."

Other notable performances of the day came from flag bearer Curtis Lovejoy (Atlanta, Georgia), Sophia Herzog (Fairplay, Colorado), Reilly Boyt (Fort Collins, Colorado)  and Zachary Shattuck (Mt. Airy, Maryland). Herzog barely missed the podium with a fourth place finish in the women’s 400 freestyle S6 with Boyt placing fifth in the same race after coming in at 6:27.83. Shattuck also took a fifth place finish in the men’s 400 freestyle S6. For five-time Paralympian Curtis Lovejoy, setting a new Parapan American record in the men’s 100 freestyle S1-4 was another highlight in his list of career accomplishments.  

"You gotta keep plugging it,” said Lovejoy. “It’s all about training, training, training. Swimming is about rhythm. Once you've tapped into the feeling of what it feels like and the effort becomes effortless, you start succeeding."

Day two of the 2015 Parapan American Games, a competition that showcases more than 1,600 athletes from 28 different countries, resumes tomorrow. The second day of swimming events will again be held at the CIBC Aquatics Center with live streaming available on the IPC website beginning at 9 a.m. EST. For full results and schedule, visit TeamUSA.org/ParapanAm