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American photographer Casey B. Gibson was on hand at the 2016 Paralympic Games, shooting cycling events for the United States Olympic Committee. Here, he presents his favorite images.
Two weeks after the Olympics in Rio ended, the 2016 Paralympics took place on the same courses and velodrome. While the event missed most of the world’s attention, it provided an opportunity for thousands of athletes to achieve their dreams of competing at the Olympics. Many overcame tremendous challenges, from beating cancer to coping with heredity diseases to recovering from wounds in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes the story and image was not of whether the athlete won, but just that they were able to compete at all. There were many incredible stories, and the fans who came out in the thousands were treated to true athletic achievement and inspiration.
And Rio was a successful Paralympics for the United States — arguably its best Paralympic Games performance ever, finishing the road cycling program in Rio with 13 medals, one more than they earned at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The team also collected five medals in track cycling, matching its total from the London Games. The 18 total medals (four gold, nine silver, five bronze), is the most ever won in Paralympic cycling by a U.S. team.
Leading the charge for the Americans was first-time Paralympian Jamie Whitmore, of Mount Aukum, California). Whitmore won gold for the U.S. in the women’s C1-3 road race, a tactical race held in the rain, ending in an all-out sprint to the finish. Whitmore edged out China’s Sini Zeng and Denise Schindler of Germany for the gold medal.
As the front group made the final turn and headed for the finish line there were six riders still in the lead pack, any of whom could have claimed gold. Knowing that helped push Whitmore even more, as she was determined not to leave Rio without a road cycling medal.
“All I kept thinking about was how badly I wanted gold,” said Whitmore. “I put every ounce of myself into it, all the way down to my toes.”
The win gave Whitmore a second medal of the Games; she won silver in the 3000m individual pursuit on the track. For Whitmore, a world Xterra triathlon champion before a battle with cancer damaged her left leg, winning two medals in Rio was a dream come true.??“This has been a lifelong dream since I was six years old, wanting to be an Olympian,” she said. “I thought my dream had ended and then there is this great thing called the Paralympics, and I got a second chance.”
Two-time Paralympic cyclist Joe Berenyi, of Oswego, Illinois, took silver in the C3 3000m individual pursuit, the fourth Paralympic medal of his career. Berenyi, who lost his left arm in a construction accident in 1994, maintained a lead of less than one second over Australia’s David Nicholas through the 2000-meter mark. Nicholas, who is 23 years Berenyi’s junior, proved to be too strong, eventually taking the lead at the 2500-meter mark and maintaining it through to the finish. Berenyi, who won gold in the same event in London, finished with a time of 3:34.042, just 1.014 behind Nicholas, who recorded a winning time of 3:33.028.
“I changed gears in this race, and opened up a little slower to hold on, but on the last couple laps I knew he was getting up on me by the way my coach was directing me,” stated Berenyi. “That’s just the way it happens sometimes. To win a medal in my second Games is just fantastic. It’s never a bad thing to win a silver, I am just very happy to because a lot of hard work went into preparing for this.”
American Jill Walsh, of Syracuse, New York, also took home a pair of medals, both silver, finishing second in the T1-2 women’s road race after doing the same in the T1-2 time trial. Will Groulx, a U.S. Navy veteran who is paralyzed below the waist, won a gold and two silvers. Samantha Bosco, of Springhill, Florida, left Rio with two bronze medals, in the 3000m individual pursuit and time trial, something the first-time Paralympian was extremely satisfied with.
“Coming away with two medals is just amazing,”Bosco said. “It’s a dream come true and adds fuel to the fire for next time.”