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A Look Back At Team USA's Top Para-Cycling Moments From Rio

by Alex Abrams

Will Groulx competes in Rio. (Photo: Casey Gibson)

From the moment Allison Jones served as the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, U.S. Para-cyclists made their presence known at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.

Shawn Morelli easily won a pair of gold medals, and Jamie Whitmore and Will Groulx pulled away down the stretch to add to Team USA’smedal count. In total Americans won 18 medals in Rio.

Five years later, the top American cyclists are preparing to finally compete at this summer’s Tokyo Paralympics. The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Cyclingare set for June 19 in Minneapolis.

With the team trials quickly approaching, here’s a closer look at some of the top U.S. Para-cycling moments from Rio.

Allison Jones Serves AsThe American Flag Bearer

Allison Jones had a decorated career as a cyclist and alpine skier, and she added one more honor before she retired and became a mechanical engineer.

Jones, who was born without a right femur, was selected as the flag bearer to represent the U.S. Paralympic Team at the Opening Ceremony for the Rio Paralympics.Wearing a navy blue blazer and white pants, Jones led nearly 300 American athletes into the historic Maracanã stadium on Sept. 7, 2016. 

“Only one person gets chosen out of almost 300 hundred athletes on the team,” Jones said at the time. “That enough people believed in me, my story and my legacy, it’s just a real honor.”

Jones didn’t medal in Rio, but she earned eight medals at eight Paralympics — including a gold and two bronzes in cycling at the 2012 London Paralympics.

Shawn Morelli Wins First Paralympic Gold For Team USA

Shawn Morelli won the first gold medal for the U.S. in Rio, and she made it look easy.

Morelli, a U.S. Army veteran who was making her Paralympic debut at age 40, cruised to a win in the women’s C4 3,000-meter individual pursuit with a time of 3:59.407, besting the defending Paralympic champ by more than five seconds.

She lifted her right hand in the air to show her excitement during a victory lap.

Australian Susan Powell, the defending champ, couldn’t keep up with Morelli during their gold-medal race and finished behind her at 4:04.794. American Megan Fisher took the bronze.

Morelli was considered the favorite in the event after she broke the world record a few months earlier with a time of 3:55.006 at the world championships. 

Jamie Whitmore Earns Gold In Paralympic Debut

Jamie Whitmore had already earned a silver medal in the 3,000-meter individual pursuit, but she wanted to cap her Paralympic debut in Rio with a gold.

Whitmore, a Somerset, California, native, was in a crowded field with five other riders as they made the final turn and headed for the finish line in the women’s C1-3 road race.

Whitmore made a late charge down the stretch to win the gold in a time of 1:30.14, edging out China’s Sini Zeng and Germany’s Denise Schindler.

“All I kept thinking about was how badly I wanted gold,” Whitmore said after the race. “I put every ounce of myself into it, all the way down to my toes!”

Will Groulx Wins Gold Following Change In Sports

Will Groulx had already won a gold medal and two bronzes in wheelchair rugby when he decided to switch to hand-cycling in 2013.

With his family cheering from the stands, Groulx pushed ahead of Italy’s Luca Mazzone over the final 100 meters to win the gold medal in the H2 road race in 1:15.23.

“I played out two to three different scenarios in my head during the race, and it worked out really well,” Groulx said following the race. “I had just a little bit more in the tank than he did at the end.”

Groulx showed in Rio that he could successfully make the transition to Para-cycling, winning a gold medal and a pair of silvers.

Shawn Morelli Earns Her Second Gold In Rio

Morelli enjoyed an incredible week in Rio.

Six days after she won the individual pursuit, Morelli returned to the medal podium to claim her second gold of the Rio Paralympics.

Morelli continued her dominance by winning the C4 road time trial in 29 minutes, 45.40 seconds, more than 30 seconds better than the next finisher — her teammate Fisher.

“In Rio, I came in as reigning world champion in both my target events,” Morelli said in a story for Paralympic.org. “So, the pressure to perform on that bigger stage was on me all through the final preparation.”

Oksana Masters Makes Cycling Debut In Rio

Oksana Masters has managed to transcend sports with her inspiring story about spending the first seven years of her life in Ukrainianorphanages.

Masters had already proven herself as a multi-sport star before 2016. She earned a bronze medal in rowing at the 2012 London Paralympics, and she added a silver and bronze in Para Nordic skiing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics.

Masters made her cycling debut in Rio, and she just missed out on medaling, finishing fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. Still, she used the Paralympics as a way to introduce herself to cycling, where she’s considered a gold medal contender at this summer’s Tokyo Paralympics.

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to USParaNordicSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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