Becca Meyers celebrates after a race in Rio. (Photo: Joe Kusumoto)
Nearly five years ago in Rio, the U.S. Paralympic swim team wrapped up competition with a total of 37 medals, including 14 gold, 14 silver and nine bronze medals. It was the fourth-highest total of the competition, finishing behind only China (92), Ukraine (74) and Great Britain (47).
Within that medal total are stories of amazing debuts, world records falling and veterans pressing on to add to already-impressive medal counts from Games past.
With the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Team Trials, presented by Milk-Bone, now less than a month away, June 17-20 in Minneapolis, here’s a look at some of the most memorable performances from swimmers at the 2016 Paralympics:
Becca Meyers Takes Down Records, Takes Home Gold Medals
Becca Meyers took care of business from the “go” in Rio. On the opening night of the silver and bronze medalist from London in 2012 not only won her very first Paralympic gold medal, but she also set a new world record in the women’s S13 100-meter butterfly. In second place at the turn, Meyers trailed Uzbekistan’s Muslima by a body length but flew on the second lap to finish in 1 minute, 3.25 seconds. It also was the first swimming gold medal of the Games for Team USA. In the 200-meter individual medley Meyers, then 21, once again came from second to take gold, finishing fractions of a second off world record pace. Next up was the 400-meter freestyle, and there was no comeback necessary. Meyers set a blistering pace, led at the first turn and dominated a field that included the reigning world champion. She lowered the world record by two seconds, finishing in 4:19.59 to become the first swimmer in the history of the event to go sub-4:20 for gold medal No. 3. Last was the 100-meter freestyle, where she was out of podium position at the turn but blew through the last 50 meters to win silver. Her fifth event was a sixth-place finish in the 50 free.
Jessica Long kicked off her fourth Paralympics by winning her 18th career medal, a silver in the women’s S8 400-meter freestyle on the opening night of competition. She followed that with silver medals in the 100-meter breaststroke and 4x100 34 pt. freestyle relay and bronze in the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter backstroke.However, her 13th gold medal eluded her until the final night of competition. That’s when won the SM8 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2:40.23 to bring her overall Paralympic medal total to 23. She’s the second-most decorated Paralympian in U.S. history.
Snyder Crushes World RIn Men’s 100 Freestyle
After already winning gold in the 50-meter freestyle and repeating his 2012 title in the 400 free, Brad Snyder defended his Paralympic title in the men’s S11100-meter freestyle in a big way. The U.S. Navy veteran, who lost his sight in Afghanistan after stepping on an IED exactly one year before debuting at the Paralympic Games London 2012, swam a scorching 56.67 seconds and took down a record that had stood for 30 years. Snyder also had the unusual result of tying for silver in the 100-meter backstroke and breaking an American record that stood since 1992 in the process.
Coan Sets Paralympic R, Beats It Win Gold
McKenzie Coan qualified for the 2012 Paralympics at the age of 16. After making it to the final of the 400-meter freestyle and finishing sixth, she came to a 20-year-old veteran ready to make her mark on the podium and the record books. She set a Paralympic record in the ’ S7 50-meter freestyle heats to take the top seed, then beat her own record in the final to win the gold medal. Coan also won gold in the 100-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle and silver in the 34 pt. 4x100m freestyle relay, in addition to finishing fifth in the 100-meter backstroke and sixth in the 50-meter butterfly.
Marks Debuts, Sets World R
Elizabeth Marks endured much before making her Paralympic debut in Rio, including injuries to both hips while serving as a combat medic in Iraq as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in 2010 and a life-threatening illness while competing in the Invictus Games in 2014. In the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke, Marks set a Paralympic record in the prelims with a time of 1:28.83 and then lowered it in the final, beating Long’s world record (and herself) with a time of 1:28.13. She also won bronze as a member of the 24 pt. 4x100-meter medley.
Konkoly Also Debuts, S W R
Michelle Konkoly began her first Paralympic Games by winning her heat of the S9 100-meter freestyle just two-hundredths a second of the Paralympic record. T won gold and set a new world record later that night with a time of 1:00.91. Less than 24 hours later she was up again, this time for the 50-meter freestyle. She already held the world record, having set the mark at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials earlier in the summer, and set a Paralympic record in the final to win her second gold medal with a time of 28.29. She also won silver in the 34 pt. 4x100-meter freestyle and bronze in the 34 pt. 4x100-meter medley to round out her Games with a total of four medals.
Perkins Builds Total
Roy Perkins competed in his third Paralympic Games and kicked things off with a silver medal in the men’s S5 200-meter freestyle on night. He took silver in the S5 100-meter freestyle on the last night of competition, and in between added gold in the 50-meter butterfly and bronze in the 50-meter freestyle to bring his total medal count to 10.