Here are the North Carolinas competing in the US Team’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo
The games in Tokyo are not over.
On August 24, the 2020 Paralympic Games will kick off in Japan and all eyes will be on some of the best athletes in the world, all competing with varying degrees of disabilities or impairments. The games will end on September 5 and will be televised by NBC and its streaming service, Peacock.
Like the 2020 Olympics, the Paralympic Games have been postponed for a year due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
The Paralympic Games started in 1960 and this will be the 16th edition of them.
According to data compiled by WUNC, nine athletes with ties to North Carolina travel to Tokyo to compete in the games. Earlier this summer, 33 North Carolina athletes went to the Olympics and 20 returned medalists.
At the Tokyo Paralympic Games, the people of Tar Heel State returned home with five gold and one silver.
- Event: 100 meters freestyle; 100 meters back; 100 meter breaststroke; 200 meters individual medley
- NC connection: Graduated from Leesville Road High School; Student at Queens University of Charlotte
This will be the second Paralympic Games for Aspden, who won two bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Games, placing third in the 100-meter backstroke and 4×100-meter medley relay. A native of Raleigh, Aspden was born with a congenital hip disarticulation and lacks a left leg. Yet she has been swimming competitively since the age of eight. In Rio, she was the youngest swimmer on Team USA to win a medal at the age of 16.
- In Tokyo: At her second Paralympic Games, Aspden won her first gold medal winning the S9 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1: 09.22. Aspden entered the race as a seed and never gave up his place. Aspden beat swimmers from Spain and New Zealand for the crown. Aspden won a second gold medal later, as part of the team that triumphed in the 4×100-meter medley relay with 34 points.
- Event: Triathlon
- NC connection: 2010 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill
An Army veteran, Elmlinger served 10 years with the 82nd Airborne Division’s Combat Aviation Unit in Iraq and Afghanistan. A graduate of UNC Nursing School, Elmlinger became passionate about running when she moved to Texas after college. In 2013, he was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer, and later his left leg was amputated. Yet she never stopped running. Elmlinger competed in the Boston Marathon and the United States National Paratriathlon Championships. Earlier this year, she won two gold medals at the World Triathlon Para Series events in Yokohama, Japan, and Leeds, England. This is his first Paralympic Games.
- Event: Sitting volleyball
- NC connection: Originally from Fayetteville; Jack Britt High School Grad
It will be the fourth Paralympic Games for Erickson, who was among the US sitting volleyball teams that won silver in Beijing and London, and gold in Rio. Erickson was born with a bone that prevented her right leg from fully developing, and she was subsequently amputated below the knee at the age of nine. For the past nine years, Erickson has coached in Oklahoma at the high school level and with the Wounded Warriors program.
- In tokyo: The United States team dominated China 3-1 for the gold medal, giving Erickson their second gold and fourth overall. She had six digs and 21 points in the game.
- Event: Long jump
- NC connection: Originally from Kingston; Graduated from Athens Drive High School; Graduated from the University of East Carolina
Gillette will make her fifth Paralympic appearance in Tokyo and is chasing an elusive gold medal. On his debut in Athens in 2004, he won a silver medal in the long jump at each of the last four Paralympic Games. Gillette started going blind at the age of eight, according to the Team USA website. He was the first totally blind athlete in the world to eclipse 22 feet in the long jump. Most recently, Gillette won the gold medal at the 2019 World Long Jump Championships. In previous Paralympics, he also finished in the top 10 in the triple jump and the 4×100-meter relay.
- In Tokyo: Gillette was second in the T11 long jump, winning the fifth silver medal of her Paralympic career. Gillette fouled on her first attempt and then jumped 6.17 meters. The winner, China’s Di Dongdong, beat Gillette by about a foot, jumping to a distance of 6.47 meters.
Maria Liana Mutia
- Event: Judo
- NC connection: Graduated from Millbrook High School; Trains to El Toro Judo Club in Raleigh
Originally from Manila, Philippines, Mutia will compete in his first Paralympic Games. The 22-year-old is visually impaired. According to her trainer Chester Evans, he told her in 2016 that she would be playing the games in Tokyo. He said if she did, he would get a tattoo. So, before Mutia returns from Japan, her old trainer will have some fresh ink. Evans, a disabled veteran of the Marines, wrote to WUNC in an email that he is “a proud trainer.” Mutia will compete in the 63 kg category.
- Event: 100 meters butterfly; 200 meters individual medley; 200 meters freestyle
- NC connection: Born in Charlotte
Sapp grew up in Waldorf, Md., But was born in Charlotte and has been swimming since he was five. At the age of 18, Sapp was diagnosed with autism and developmental disability. But that never stopped him from succeeding in the pool. As a freshman in high school, he broke five of his school’s varsity swimming records. He has been on the national team since 2017 and at the World Championships he won two medals. This is his first Paralympic Games.
- Event: Sitting volleyball
- NC connection: Graduated from South Iredell High School; Student at UNC-Chapel Hill
At birth, Schieck suffered nerve damage in his left arm – also known as a brachial plexus injury – which limits his ability to straighten, rotate, or put his arm behind his back. Yet she never shied away from athletics. She started playing volleyball at the age of seven and started playing sitting volleyball a few years ago. An outside hitter, she was part of the United States team that won gold at the 2019 World Championships. This will be Schieck’s first Paralympic Games.
- In tokyo: The United States team dominated China 3-1 for the gold medal, giving Schieck his first Paralympic medal. She had one point in the gold medal game, seeing the action in sets three and four.
- Event: 400 meters freestyle; 100 meters freestyle
- NC connection: Cary resident; Trains at the Triangle Aquatic Center
Stickney was one of the best swimmers in the country at the age of 15 and had a goal of competing in the Olympics. But an abnormal injury and infection led to the amputation of his left leg below the knee in 2018. Months later, a rare vascular disease discovered in his right leg resulted in another amputation below the knee. According to Boston.com, Stickney was the first patient to undergo bilateral Ewing amputation, an experimental procedure to give a patient more sense in their limbs. Weeks after his amputation, Stickney was back in the pool. This is the first Paralympic Games for the 24-year-old.
- In tokyo: Stickney won her first gold medal, taking victory in the women’s S8 400 meters with a time of 4: 42.39 on August 31. She edged American swimmer Jessica Long by 1.02 seconds for the win.
- Event: Wheelchair tennis (Single)
- NC connection: Rutherfordton resident; Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy graduate
This will be the first Paralympic Games for Stroud, who was born with proximal femoral focal impairment, which means he was born without femurs, hips, ankles or knees. At the age of four he started playing tennis and switched to wheelchair tennis at the age of 13. He is a five-time member of the World Cup junior team for the sport and won first place in singles at several events in 2019. Stroud is studying at the University of Alabama.