This year 115 American Paralympic athletes came home from Rio with medals; forty gold medals, forty-four silver medals and thirty-one bronze medals were won.These accomplishments are very underappreciated and talked about, but they are the same accomplishments and require the same amount of work to get an Olympic medal. Knowing how much work it takes to be good enough to participate in the Paralympics, let alone win a medal, it is not right that most of these athletes go unnoticed.
One fellow North Carolinian brought home a silver medal from the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Lex Gillette became blind at a young age from retinal detachment in both eyes, but he still lived a rather normal life growing up in Raleigh and attending Athens Drive High School. He has participated in four Paralympic games and has won four silver medals. During his latest journey to Rio, he participated in two events, long jump and the 100m. Even though he was disappointed in coming up short to the gold, he was still the first completely blind athlete to ever “eclipse” the twenty-two foot barrier in long jump.
The US sitting volleyball team snatched their first gold medal after receiving bronze and silver in the past three Olympic Games. In the finals on Sept. 17th, the Americans took on the national rival China, who beat them in pool play four days earlier. They took the game in a three set sweep with the lead scorer, Monique Burkland from Oklahoma, securing twelve kills and one block. Heather Erickson, a team captain whose hometown is right around the corner in Fayetteville, was the fourth lead scorer with seven kills and one block. Along with head coach Bill Hamiter, the team ended their 2016 Rio Olympic journey with four wins and only one loss.
Both the men and women's wheelchair basketball teams brought home gold from Rio this year. This is the first time since 1988 both teams were on top of the podium. The men's game stayed close with the beginning of the fourth quarter 47-44. The lead scorer, Jake Williams, intentionally getting himself fouled, made a fast break and put USA too far ahead for their rival Spain to reach.
All the records that have been broken during the 2016 Rio Paralympics shows the amount of hard-work an athlete needs to make it far. The 115 medals that the athletes have won are still under appreciated, but that is easy to change with proper national and local recognition.