Team USA closes out the Parapan American Games with podium sweep and five additional medals
by Heidi Ledermann
SANTIAGO, CHILE – On the final day of competition for the Parapan American Games Santiago 2023, U.S. Paralympics Cycling added eight additional medals, including a podium sweep, to Team USA’s medal count.
Despite the first few laps of the men’s H3-5 road race appearing that it could be anyone’s game, Freddie De Los Santos (Hopewell Junction, NY), Ryan Pinney (Phoenix, AZ) and Brandon Lyons (Mechanicsburg, PA) finished with a full Team USA podium sweep of first, second and third places, respectively.
The men held strong in the lead pack until they had the opportunity in the second to last lap to break away and put some distance between them and the fourth-place rider. At that point, it was clear that it would be an American podium, but as the men worked together to share the effort by drafting off one another, it was unclear who would be first to cross the finish line of the 64.8 km course.
As the men came into the final stretch, Pinney and De Los Santos grabbed hands, with Pinney giving De Los Santos the go-ahead to propel himself across the line as the Parapan American Games champion. Pinney and Lyons who had won gold and silver medals, respectively, in last Sunday’s H1-5 time trial, pumped their fists in the air while coasting into the finish line together with a time of 1:42:53 and 1:42:54.
“We talked about it all week, and this was what we ultimately wanted. It’s an honor to share the podium with these guys – Brandon and Freddie,” said Pinney.
The moment was extra special for two-time Paralympian De Los Santos, as his wife and kids were in the crowd cheering for him.
“It is such a blessing to see my kids here – to have them see me race for the first time ever,” said De Los Santos. “They have never seen me race before, and to have family here now and be on the podium is priceless.”
While they don’t often end up in the same events due to their different classifications, all three were able to share the podium due to today’s event combining classes H3-5.
“The three of us don’t get a chance to ever really race together as the threes to the fives,” said Lyons, “so it was so much fun, and this was a great opportunity for Ryan and myself especially to get together and plan for next year.”
Following his teammates’ success, Dennis Connors (Beaverton, OR) captured his second medal of the Games. Though he had been sick earlier this week, Connors came out on top of the competition in the mixed T1-2 road race. After going back and forth with Colombia’s Juan Jose Betancourt, Connors made the move on the last lap to pull ahead, finishing the 32.4 km race with a time of 56:55, almost 30 seconds ahead of Betancourt.
“My expectations were high coming in here today, and then they dropped off to nothing because I got sick,” said Connors. “I had a rough week, but I was able to recover from it. It’s amazing to have that flag raised and hear our song on the last day of competition.”
Reflecting on his highly successful race season, Connors said, “National champ, Parapan champ, world champ - I’m ecstatic.”
The women’s H2-5 road race also ended with multiple Americans gracing the podium, despite Kate Brim (Lowell, MI) almost not entering the event.
“For about a week now, I’ve been egging on our coaches to put me into this category to race it,” said Brim. “Originally, I was supposed to be racing with the trike categories, and it would essentially be just one more time trial for me, but last night my coach gave me the go ahead, and it went absolutely incredibly.”
Racing in a tight pack throughout the 54 km course, Jenna Rollman (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) and Brim fought to no avail to break out of the group to prevent a sprint finish. However, after each lap, they found themselves still deeply rooted in the pack.
“The race was super tight,” said Rollman who finished the course with a time of 1:38:48. “It was down to the wire. On the fourth lap, I knew it was going to come to a sprint. The Brazilians were really strong – we could not shake them. There was no gap opening, which we were attempting to do, but it just was not happening.”
Rollman and Brim worked together to motivate one another to achieve bronze and silver medal status, respectively.
“Kate is a much better accelerator than me,” said Brim. “I was behind her telling her ‘just go, you can do it, you’re great at this,’ so to be able to hang onto her sprint for that silver and bronze, it was very satisfying. I was elated coming through the line.”
Rollman, whose birthday is tomorrow, said that this early birthday treat of earning a Parapan American Games medal was also a chance for her to regain her confidence after missing her goals at the World Championships Glasgow 2023.
“Worlds was bad for me, and I had the worst results I had ever had,” said Rollman. “It was a really deep low, so I wanted to come here and achieve high. It was a chance for redemption. To achieve that is a dream come true.”
Also going home elated is Jamie Whitmore (Somerset, CA) who earned a silver medal in the 43.2 km women’s C1-3 road race with her time of 1:11:37 – her third silver medal of these Games.
“I really wanted gold, but I’m stoked,” said Whitmore. “That’s racing and that’s what’s fun about everything.”
Whitmore, who was one of two U.S. athletes to compete in all four days of road and track cycling events, got caught up in one of the turns at the beginning of the race while Colombia’s Daniela Carolina Munevar took off. Whitmore spent the next three laps closing the 28-second gap, finishing within the same second as Munevar.
“I keep telling myself, ‘if I had just shifted one more, maybe I could have had that extra sprint,’ but I also know my legs are spent right now,” said Whitmore. “I am going home with three medals and compared to Toronto where I got zero, I am ecstatic.”
Also racking up her third medal of the Games was Samantha Bosco (Claremont, CA) who will be adding a bronze medal to her two golds from earlier this week. Bosco was in good standing out of the start before a crash derailed her progress – her first crash after serious training accident in 2021 that kept her from competing in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“It was my first crash after I got really hurt two summers ago,” said Bosco, “so it’s nice to know that I can be okay from one. Nobody ever wants to crash, so it was a hard day right from the start.”
Despite the rocky start, Bosco made up the minute’s difference to catch the chase pack where teammate Elizabeth Mis (Medina, OH) was leading the charge after Colombia’s Paula Andrea Ossa Veloza who had broken away from the start and put a two minute lead on the group in the first lap.
“I didn’t want a DNF next to my name,” said Bosco. “I didn’t want to see ‘Did Not Finish.’ I wanted to get back on my bike and finish the race and know that I could finish a race.”
Mis and Bosco pursued Ossa Veloza along with Argentina’s Mariela Analia Delgado and Canada’s Keely Toles for the next four laps in the fight for the silver and bronze medals. As the women neared the final stretch of the 64.8 km race, Bosco pulled ahead, capturing the bronze medal behind Delgado. Mis came in fourth place one second later with a time of 1:47:17.
“I didn’t want to sprint if it was going to be chaotic,” said Bosco. “I figured my only shot was to go when I did and go with that much room so I didn’t have anyone around me who could potentially crash me again like at the beginning of the race and just hope that I could hold on or that it would be my teammate coming around me.”
Today’s medal makes Bosco Team USA’s most successful Para-cycling athlete of the Parapan Am Games with two gold medals and one bronze medal. After a busy week with four races across both the road and track, Bosco is planning to take some well-deserved rest.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating,” said Bosco. “I am looking forward to a couple days off and hugging my loved ones and my husband. I am excited to go home and just let it all sink in.”
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Heidi Ledermann at Heidi.Ledermann@usopc.org.
Team USA Medals – Nov. 26:
Freddie De Los Santos, men’s H3-5 road race (64.8 km)
Dennis Connors, mixed T1-2 road race (32.4 km)
Ryan Pinney, men’s H3-5 road race (64.8 km)
Kate Brim, women’s H2-5 road race (54 km)
Jamie Whitmore, women’s C1-3 road race (43.2 km)
Brandon Lyons, men’s H3-5 road race (64.8 km)
Jenna Rollman, women’s H2-5 road race (54 km)
Samantha Bosco, women’s C4-5 road race (64.8 km)
Other Team USA Results:
Hannah Chadwick & Skyler Espinoza – 4th, women’s B road race (75.6 km)
Elizabeth Mis – 4th, women’s C4-5 road race (64.8 km)