Parapan American Games Shape Up As Paris 2024 Rehearsal for U.S. Cyclists
by Paul D. Bowker
This month’s Parapan American Games will take on a significant meaning for Samantha Bosco.
It’s her first time in Chile.
Bosco, a four-time medalist in her first Parapan American Games four years ago in Lima, Peru, will join 14 other U.S. cyclists in Santiago, Chile, for a competition that comes less than a year before the Paralympic Games are held in Paris. The Parapan American Games began Nov. 17, and cycling competition is set to start Nov. 19.
“For me, the Parapan American Games are just a fun experience, and getting to compete with people in other countries and interact with them,” said Bosco, a two-time Paralympic medalist. “It’s basically a mini Games. You get to trade pins. You have the same kind of atmosphere, on a smaller scale, but the same atmosphere as the Paralympic Games.”
Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling, looks at the season-ending event much the same way. For some, it’s a rehearsal for Paris even if it’s not a qualifier.
“It takes on an importance in the sense that it’s a Games environment a year out from the Paris Games,” Lawless said. “So it’s an exciting opportunity for a lot of our athletes to kind of experience a true international games, kind of as a tune-up for Paris.”
He added: “For me, I’m excited just to be able to provide that opportunity for our athletes who made the Parapan team and enjoy competing at a truly international competition.”
The Parapan American Games are the closing act to a cycling season that included a home world cup stop and a world championships in Glasgow, Scotland, that for the first time combined all of the sport’s disciples, Para and able-bodied, at a central location The Parapan Am Games, Lawless said, will not play a part in the selection process for the 2024 U.S. Paralympic Team, but it is still a measuring stick for 15 Americans as the Paris Games get closer.
“It’s a good opportunity just to see how athletes can perform this time of year because they’ve had a long season,” Lawless said. “And we’ll have a long season next year. So it’s a good opportunity for our veteran athletes, particularly like Samantha, to see how they fare and how well they’re riding in a late-season event after a long year of racing all over the world.”
Bosco, a 21-time world championships medalist in WC4, is ready.
“Any time I get to race in a new country, that’s always fun for me,” the Californian said. “I feel good. I feel like I’m in a good place for my training. Obviously, for me, the focus is the Paralympic Games next year so I’m just using the Pan Am Games as a gauge to see where I’m at, where I can improve and keep building and try to carry momentum forward into next year.”
Bosco won a world cup overall title this year and won the road race in time trial WC4 events in Glasgow.
“She obviously was our best athlete and very successful all season long,” Lawless said. “I think, in some ways, it’s a little bit of a victory lap for her.”
Other Paralympians on the Parapan team are Jamie Whitmore, a two-time Paralympic medalist in WC3; Joe Berenyi, a four-time Paralympic medalist who won the MC3 1-kilometer time trial at the 2019 Parapan Games; Freddie De Los Santos, a Paralympic bronze medalist in MH5; and Ryan Pinney, a 2020 Paralympic bronze medalist in MH3 who is making his Parapan Am Games debut.
“I look at this one as an opportunity to really plan out the rest of the year, help out my fellow teammates and … strengthen our team as best as we can,” Pinney said.
Whitmore, who medaled in both road and track at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, plans on racing in both disciplines in Santiago.
“She hasn’t done that in a few years, since before Tokyo (2020 Paralympic Games),” Lawless said.
Among those making their Parapan Games debuts are WH2 handcyclist Kate Brim, a two-time world champion in 2022; Jenna Rollman, a WH3 handcyclist who finished second in the time trial at the World Cup Final and 11th in the road race at the world championships; Katie Walker, who finished sixth in the WC5 500-meter time trial at the world championships; Elizabeth Mis Neag, who finished fourth in the WC5 time trial at the World Cup Final; Dennis Connors, who won his first world title in MT2 this year; and Pinney, who won a world silver medal in August.
The tandem teams of Hannah Chadwick and Skyler Espinoza, and Michael Stephens and Joe Christiansen are also competing at the Parapan Games for the first time. Both teams raced at the UCI Cycling World Championships, with Chadwick and Espinoza winning a bronze medal in the women’s sprint.
Bosco said the competition in Santiago will help the U.S. newcomers.
“It’s a good time for people who are a little bit new to the Games that kind of have that feeling and the additional stress and anxiety that can creep in with something as high caliber before an event that has the best in the world,” she said. “This is the best in part of the world.”
The U.S. was the medal-winner leader in cycling at the 2019 Parapan Am Games with 18 medals, including seven gold medals.
“I think, in South America, the Pan Am Games and Parapan American Games are a big deal to those countries and those athletes,” Lawless said. “I think we’ll have some stiff competition and it’ll be great racing.”
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.