TOKYO, Japan — Team USA performed incredibly well on the first day of the triathlon finals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Allysa Seely, Brad Snyder, and Hailey Danz won two gold medals and one silver for Team USA, marking an incredible result for para-triathlon.
Seely and Danz won gold medals and silver medals, respectively, in the women’s PTS2 category, repeating the same result they both achieved at the previous edition of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
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“I’m just so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be here and make a dream come true,” Seely said at the end of her race.
“I said, the day of Rio, that the goal here was the gold. There’s been so many ups and downs, and to be able actually to pull off that goal has been incredible.”
Seely won the gold medal with a remarkable comeback during the run. At the beginning of the last third of the race, Seely was in second place, with more than one minute gap from the leader of the race, her teammate Danz. However, lap after lap, Seely reduced the gap and managed to overtake Danz during the last lap of the race.
“I knew everybody in the field had gotten stronger on the run, so I had to go out with everything I could,” Seely said.
“There were a few moments, I doubted that I was going to be able to close such a large gap, but I just kept my head down. And I just kept telling myself, if you have it in you, you can make it happen. Just keep going, just keep going, just keep going.”
If Seely managed to close the gap and win the race in the last lap, Danz lost the gold medal in the last lap after leading the group during most of the race.
“I came here hoping to improve upon my silver medal [from Rio 2016],” Danz said.
“I wasn’t able to do that today, but I mean, a silver here today is still pretty incredible. I’m very proud of the effort.”
The field today was very competitive. As Danz pointed out during the interviews, the race was 10 minutes faster than the race in Rio de Janeiro, a strong signal of how all the para-tri-athletes in this category pushed the bar very high in the past five years.
United States Army Veteran, Wounded Warrior, and Team USA flag bearer Melissa Stockwell finished only in fifth place for who still seemed very satisfied by her performance.
“[There are] things I could have done better or some things that were not to my advantage. But I mean, it is what I did out there. I did the best I could do,” Stockwell said.
“And at the end of the day, that’s not what I’m happy about. I wanted to smile, and I smiled, and I felt my family in here; their hearts are in the stands. So it’s everything I could have wanted, honestly. And I get to represent the country I love.”
Although she did not win any medals, she won the sportsmanship award. During the race, she did not miss the chance to cheer on her teammates and her opponents when running past them.
At the end of her race, Stockwell stayed by the finish line, supporting every athlete who had not finished yet, celebrating everyone’s efforts during the long race in scorching and humid weather that made it even more challenging for everyone competing.
“I love our entire classification, PTS2. Before we raced, we all huddled around, and we all did a chant. I was trying to wait for a hug [at the end of the race], and [the organizers] made me leave, but I love it. I love everyone.”
The other gold medal of the day for Team USA came from the five-time Paralympic champion Brad Snyder. This was the first Paralympic Games he competed in triathlon, as he only took up this sport in 2018. Before that, Snyder competed in swimming, where he won seven gold medals and two silvers in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Snyder, who competed in the Men’s PTVI category, along with his teammate Kyle Coon, led the race from the beginning, capitalizing the margin that he gained during the swimming portion and maintaining enough distance from his opponents that his lead was never in jeopardy.
“You spend so much time visualizing and hoping and preparing for it. And just like in Rio, and just like in London, there’s no way you can imagine how good it’s going to feel [to win a gold medal],” Snyder said after receiving his gold medal.
“And it was a good feeling. We designed it where we wanted to go into the run with that kind of a gap. I did not think we were going to hold it, so to have that gap and maintain it was really a cool feeling.”
“And to come into that chute and grab that tape and throw it in the air is not something we’ve been able to do a lot, and it was awesome, for sure.”
Kyle Coon finished his race in the fifth position. In the Men’s PST4, Eric McElvenny and Jamie Brown finished in sixth and ninth positions, while in the Women’s PTVI, Elizabeth Baker and Amy Dixon finished in eight and twelve places, respectively.