U.S. Paralympics News 20 Storylines To Wat...

20 Storylines To Watch With One Year Until The Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020

By Stuart Lieberman | Aug. 25, 2019, 9:30 a.m. (ET)

Hailey Danz, Allysa Seely and Melissa Stockwell celebrate sweeping the first three places in the women's triathlon PT2 at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 on Sept. 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.


Sunday, Aug. 25 marks the one-year countdown to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. With one year to go until the flame is lit, here are 20 storylines to keep your eyes on.

Equal Operation Gold and USOPC
This will mark the first Paralympic Games in which Team USA competes under the renamed United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and first summer Paralympic Games since Operation Gold medal bonuses for Para athletes became equal to those of their Olympic counterparts. 

Second time in Tokyo
When Tokyo held the Paralympic Games in 1964, it marked just the second edition of the Paralympic Games and the first to use the term Paralympic in association with the event. The U.S. finished first in the medal standings with 50 golds and 123 total medals.

Two new sports
Two new sports will be added to the Paralympic program for the first time in Tokyo: badminton and taekwondo. Look out for Evan Medell from Team USA to be in the mix for a taekwondo medal.

A (Jessica) Long time at the top
Swimmer Jessica Long already owns 13 Paralympic gold medals and 23 medals overall, and is already the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian. Eyeing her fifth Games, she swept eight golds at the most recent world championships, including six individual events and two relays, leaving her as the most decorated woman at the event. 

Elusive marathon gold for McFadden
Tatyana McFadden is a 17-time Paralympic medalist, having won a medal in all six of the individual events she entered in Rio in 2016, including four golds and two silvers. She has also won 22 world marathon majors, but has yet to win Paralympic gold in the marathon and is hoping to change that in Tokyo.

Rise of Romanchuk
At 21 years old, Daniel Romanchuk and his nearly seven-foot wingspan are on the verge of having a breakout Paralympic Games. Within the last year, Romanchuk became the first-ever American and youngest athlete to win the wheelchair division titles at both the Boston and New York City Marathons and smashed the 5,000-meter world record on the track. He’s now going for his first Paralympic medal.

Will Seely’s success continue?
Allysa Seely has been on a tear since winning gold at the Rio 2016 Games. She went undefeated in her 2018 season, winning a world title, and has followed that up this year by winning an ESPY award and maintaining her status as the top-ranked paratriathlete in the world. Will her streak continue through Tokyo?

Everyone’s learning paracanoe
Three experienced athletes – Blake Haxton, Kaitlyn Verfuerth and Jack Wallace – are all looking to make the jump to paracanoe for Tokyo 2020. Haxton was a 2016 Paralympian in rowing, Verfuerth is a three-time Paralympian in wheelchair tennis and Wallace won gold with the U.S. sled hockey team at the 2018 Winter Games.

Pike and Masters: The power couple 
Long-time couple and multisport athletes Aaron Pike and Oksana Masters will once again trade in their skis to revert back to summer sports. Masters is an eight-time Paralympic medalist, having reached the podium in rowing and Nordic skiing, and is looking for her first cycling medal. Four-time Paralympian Pike is hoping to get his first career Paralympic medal in track and field.

Dominating the basketball court 
The U.S. has never had a stronger collection of wheelchair basketball players – both men and women – than it has in the latter half of this decade. Three years ago, the men’s and women’s teams both won Paralympic gold, reaching the podium together for the first time since 1996. It marked the men’s team’s first gold in 28 years.

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Looking for a volleyball repeat
The U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team made history in Rio by winning its first Paralympic gold against China and outscoring its opponents 407-225. But at last year’s world championships, Team USA was denied its first world title by Russia and had to settle for silver for the third time in a row. Led by a determined three-time Paralympic medalist in Katie Holloway, the U.S. is hoping to be back-to-back champions.

Golden trio tri-ing something new
Brad Snyder, Kendall Gretsch and Josh Sweeney are all focusing on triathlon training leading up to Tokyo. All three are Paralympic stars in other sports. Former U.S. Navy lieutenant Snyder is a seven-time Paralympic medalist in swimming, Gretsch is coming off two gold medals in Nordic skiing at the 2018 Paralympics and retired U.S. Marines Corps Sergeant Sweeney scored the gold-medal-winning goal for the sled hockey team at the 2014 Paralympics.

Wallace and Woodhall’s stardom
Blade runners Hunter Woodhall and Jarryd Wallace are known for their splashy personalities and have really made a name for themselves on social media. Wallace, a contestant on “American Ninja Warrior’ this season, has four world championships medals to his name but is still looking for his first Paralympic medal. Woodhall, who engages with his fans on Instagram and his popular YouTube channel, became a First-Team All-American at the University of Arkansas last year and has his sights set on his first Paralympic gold.

Tuning in
The IPC recently announced that a record 21 disciplines from 19 sports will be broadcast live from Tokyo, with viewers being able to watch live canoe, equestrian, rowing, archery and shooting for the first time. In the U.S., NBC is looking to extend its commitment to telling the stories of U.S. Paralympians and increase the scope of its competition coverage.

Organizers using their resources
The Paralympic medals will be made from metals collected from Japanese citizens’ discarded or obsolete electronic devices, while the Paralympic Village Plaza will be made using timber produced by local municipalities. These will also be the first Paralympics to feature face recognition technology to verify the identity of athletes, officials, staff and media at the Games.

Japanese roots
Two-time wheelchair rugby Paralympic medalist Chuck Aoki, the team’s top scorer who is chomping at the bit for his first gold and the team’s first since 2008, is of Japanese descent. His great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, and his great-grandparents and grandparents were all placed in Japanese internment camps during World War II. After his family was released, his grandfather went on to serve in the U.S. Army.

Shelby aims for history
No Team USA Para archer has won multiple Paralympic gold medals in his or her career. After winning the men’s compound open at the Rio 2016 Games in dramatic fashion, U.S. Navy veteran Andre Shelby will look to become the first to do so.

Wounded veterans
More and more wounded veterans have been taking up Paralympic sports by the year. Look no further than the cycling circuit for talent from former soldiers. Two-time Paralympic champion champion Shawn Morelli and six-time Paralympic cycling medalist Will Groulx will lead the pack.

Tokyo’s transportation accessibility 
Ahead of the Games, Tokyo has already made great improvements to barrier-free transportation, with Haneda Airport recently being named the world’s best airport for people with reduced mobility. By the time of the Games, all train and bus hubs are expected to be 100-percent accessible. 

Where will Team USA rank?
The U.S. is the most decorated country in the history of the Paralympic Games with 2,179 medals, including 771 golds. Last time around, Team USA finished fourth in the medal standings; the delegation hauled in 115 medals, the most won by the U.S. team since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Team USA will look to finish in the top three in the medal standings for the first time since 2008. The last time the U.S. topped the medal table was 1996, winning 159 medals on home soil.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the 2012 and 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.