The 2016 Paralympic Games will take place in the same venues as the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The games run from September 7-18. There are 22 different sports featured during the games with para-canoe and paratriathlon each making their debut this year. It will be an exciting time with 160 nations sending more than 4,350 athletes to compete.
How much do you know about the Paralympics and who will you be cheering for? We’ve made it easy to get caught up so you will be ready in time for the opening ceremony.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) organizes the Paralympics with the goal
“To enable Para athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.”
Organizers hope that the courage and determination these athletes show will inspire others and bring equality to all athletes.
The IPC has been running the Paralympics since 1989, however the United States Olympic Committee did not start the U.S. Paralympics until 2001. Through the U.S. Paralympics athletes with physical disabilities are able to train at sports facilities across the United States.
The U.S. Paralympics expanded to include the military in 2004. The Paralympic Military Program supports service members and veterans that have been wounded in service. These injuries include amputations, traumatic brain injuries and visual impairments.
Here are 5 veterans we will be cheering on during this year’s Paralympics.
Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder is a Naval Academy graduate and Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician who became blind in 2011 after an improvised explosive device detonated.
Exactly one year after the explosion he competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and won a gold medal. He went on to win a total of 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal in swimming events at those games. This year will be an exciting time yet again to watch him compete in the pool.
Shawn Morelli, an Army engineer officer, was on a mission in Afghanistan in 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated near her. She suffered neck and nerve damage, brain trauma and became blind in her left eye.
Retired now, she is a member of the United Health Care Pro Cycling team. She has qualified for 4 events including two on the velodrome and two road races.
She was also nominated for an ESPY award this year. Morelli recently broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record in Italy. She is the top-ranked female rider in the world in her classification.
Melissa Stockwell was an Army officer in 2004. She lost her left leg after a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad. She is a three-time Paratriathlon National and World Champion and swam in the 2008 Paralympics.
While she was unfortunately the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb while in active duty combat, she became the first Iraq War veteran to compete in the Paralympic Games as a swimmer in 2008 placing fourth in the 400-meter freestyle.
This year Stockwell will be part of Paralympic history as an athlete in the first paratriathlon.
Staff Sergeant Michael Lukow serves in the Army. He is now part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program as a Paralympic archer.
He lost his right foot on a mission in Iraq. He became interested in archery during his rehabilitation. Lukow learned once again how to walk, this time with a prosthetics and braces, by retrieving arrows. His love for the sport was instant.
Sergeant Elizabeth Marks is a combat medic and Paralympic swimmer. She is also part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. She will compete in the Paralympics in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. She won 4 gold medals at the 2016 Invictus Games.
She suffered bilateral hip injuries in Iraq in 2010 and came close to death while recovering in the hospital from a respiratory infection.
All of these military veterans deserve our respect and our voice cheering for them in the 2016 Paralympics. Will you be watching and cheering for them?