100 Things to Look Forward to at The Rio Paralympics

In honor of 100 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, check out our list of 100 things to look forward to when Team USA heads down to Rio!

100. The debut of paratriathlon.

99. The debut of paracanoe.

98. New archery events. With the addition of the mixed team events, Team USA could earn more medals.

97-91. The seven medals Tatyana McFadden hopes to win in track and field. 

90. The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team was the top ranked team in the world in 2015 and looks to stay on top in Rio. 

89. Coach Joaquim Cruz leading Team USA in his native country. 

88. Women's sitting volleyball rematch with China after winning the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup. 

87. Could Lex Gillette break his streak of three straight silver medals in the long jump at the Paralympic Games? 

86. Alana Nichols could become the first U.S. athlete to win a gold medal in three different sports.

85. Following the Instagram adventures of Brad Snyder's guide dog @GizzyTheDogUSA

84. The rivalry between Richard Browne and Jarryd Wallace could result in the fastest T44 100m ever. 

83. The women's goalball team enters Rio as the reigning world champions and will be looking for redemption after finishing sixth in London.

82. Christella Garcia looks to become the first U.S. woman to medal in Judo since 2004. 

81. Curler turned rower Jacqui Kapinowski will make her second Paralympic Games appearance after having competed in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. 

80. The men's goalball team will enter Rio with more hours of training together than ever before thanks to the creation of the U.S. Men's Goalball Resident Program.

79. Wheelchair racer Chelsea McClammer returns the Paralympics games, her first since 2008.

78.The U.S. Para-Equestrian team hopes to take its first medal, individual or team, since 2004. 

77. The men's soccer team looks for its first medal since the New York / Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games.

76. Samba lessons! 

75. Sailor and physician/plastic surgeon Rick Doerr makes his return to the Paralympic Games. Doerr was a member of the mixed three-person Sonar team in 2008.

74-71. Four straight medals that the U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball team could win.

70. The U.S. has the top-three women in the world in the paratriathlon PT2 class, including Hailey Danisewicz who was the first U.S. athlete to qualify for paratriathlon in Rio. 

69. Wheelchair fencing hopes for its first medal since the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.

68-61. The eighth time that Allison Jones could represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games. 

60. Sailor Dee Smith will compete in his first Paralympic Games after competing internationally for more than 35 years.

59. Aaron Pike returns to the track after hitting the snow in Sochi. Pike made his Paralympic Games debut in London. 

58. Paratriathlete Krige Schabort is a two-time Paralympic medalist in the marathon. Schabort will look to add his name to the history books as the sport debuts in Rio.

57. Judoka Myles Porter enters Rio looking to improve on his silver-medal performance in the men's up to 100 kg weight class at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

56. Tahl Leibovitz will make his fifth Paralympic Games appearance in table tennis, searching for his first singles medal since winning bronze at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. 

55. Three-time Paralympian Austin Hanson hopes to make his fourth team in boccia. 

54. Ahmed Shafik will be competing in his second Paralympic Games in the sport of powerlifting.

53-51. The three Paralympic sports Oksana Masters could medal in if she qualifies in cycling. 

50. Will Groulx is a three-time Paralympic medalist in wheelchair rugby, but he will look to make his first team in cycling after transitioning to the sport in 2013.

49. Oz Sanchez looks to return to the top of the podium after taking bronze in London, having won gold in Beijing.

48. Rower Blake Haxton looks to shine in his first Paralympic Games. The law student had both legs amputated due to necrotizing fasciitis in 2009.

47. Athlete selfies in front of Sugarloaf Mountain! 

46. Track and field athlete Josh George enters the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games looking for his first marathon medal, while hoping to add to his five Paralympic Games medals. 

45-41. The five first-time Paralympians competing in shooting. 

40. Sydney Collier will look to carry the memory of her mentor and late Paralympian equestrian rider Jonathan Wentz as she competes with a bracelet that says "Jonathan rides on". 

39. Visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue! 

38. Dartanyon Crockett entered London as a relative unknown. Now as the reigning world champion, he'll look to win his first Paralympic gold medal in Rio.

37. The men's and women's sitting volleyball teams have both qualified for the first time since 2004. 

36. Gail Gaeng will make her Paralympic Games debut in wheelchair basketball after a stellar career at the University of Illinois. 

35. The U.S. Paralympic shooting team will more than double from two athletes in London to five in Rio. 

34-31. The four straight gold medals David Wagner and Nick Taylor could win in wheelchair tennis doubles. 

30-21. Ten days packed full of competition. 

20. Christina Schwab's return to wheelchair basketball after having participated in track in 2012. Schwab played wheelchair basketball for Team USA in 2000, 2004 and 2008.  

19. World-record holder Matt Stutzman aims for his first gold in archery.

18-11. All eight team sports have qualified for the first time since 2004.

10. Seventeen-time Paralympic medalists Jessica Long hopes to add to her total in what would be her fourth Paralympic Games. 

9. Watching Team USA athletes compete in BMW designed Racing Wheelchairs

8. Following U.S. Paralympics on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and USParalympics.org for all up-to-date information and engagement opportunities.

7. Team USA looks to finish on top of the overall medal count for the first time since the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games.

6. Closing Ceremony

5. Opening Ceremony

4. The National Anthem being played for each U.S. gold medal winner. 

3. Largest projected field of athletes in Paralympic Games history. 

2. First Paralympic Games in South America

1. Sixty-six hours of coverage on NBC.

 

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Rower to Represent Team USA in Rio Paralympic Games

PALM CITY — Adversity. The story of Jacqui Kapinowski cannot be told without it.

She has faced it many times over. It has risen up behind her and tried to take her down so many times she's actually lost count. But will adversity stop this 53-year-old world class athlete?

Don't bet on it.

In fact, the smart money is on Kapinowski.

The Tequesta woman, who has spent nearly two decades confined to a wheelchair by a rare neurological disease, has qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

On April 24 in Sarasota, Kapinowski won her qualifying trial by five boat lengths in the women's adaptive rowing shoulders and arms single scull event.

In September, Kapinowski will represent the United States when she takes to the waters of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas near Ipanema to row the 1,000-meter sprint race.

As she trains out of Treasure Coast Rowing Club, in Palm City on the slick waters of the St. Lucie River's South Fork, she envisions the technique and form that will carry her to the medal stand four months from now.

"I envision the perfect race — even though no race is perfect," Kapinowski said. "I want to focus on being clean coming out of the water (with my oars) and then getting those catches, and really sending the boat down the course."

In her years, she has overcome more than a fair share of life's hurdles.

At 35, she discovered her life would never be the same when she learned she had stiff-person's syndrome.

The spinal and brain stem-related disorder, affecting about one in one million people, causes painful muscle spasms and muscle rigidity.

As if that's not challenging enough, the condition can flare up when triggered by stimuli such as light, sound, physical contact and emotional distress.

While the cause is still unknown, Kapinowski's case is likely the result of her contracting bacterial meningitis as a child.

She lives her life with no feeling below her eighth thoracic vertebrae.

Chris Schwartz, her coach, will work with her this week on honing her skills with a training program involving 90-minute, steady-state workouts on the water.

In between her rowing days, she cross trains with Treasure Coast Rowing Club Juniors head coach Stefanie Falkner at the Martin Memorial Health and Fitness Center, in Palm City.

There, Kapinowski uses hand cycling, weight training and other conditioning regimens to build strength.

She's been training for her shot at the paralympic games since March 2015 when she was first called by U.S. Rowing to see if she wanted to get back into training.

She had been staying in good physical shape by competing in triathlons, but had gotten away from rowing after a disappointing scenario leading up to her attempt to compete in the 2012 London Games.

Adversity, again.

But that wouldn't be the last of her hurdles. After competing in a triathlon two years ago, she learned she was sick — cancer.

"In 2013, I just wasn't feeling well after I had finished a triathlon," she explained.

"After visiting my doctor, he informed me I had thyroid cancer."

The surgery was supposed to be a fairly short procedure, and offered a good prognosis for a quick recovery. But the surgery took almost five hours — instead of two.

"He told me that, after he opened me up, he saw I also had throat cancer," she said.

"There were two tumors on each side, in the beginning stages, so we dealt with that. That was two years ago in April."

This is where most people hang up their hopes to compete on an international stage, or compete at all.

But not Kapinowski.

"I'm just blown away by all the people who surround me, and all the help I get all the time," she said.

And that starts with husband Harry, who for 26 years has served as the chief assistant, lead organizer, adjunct coach and the legs of Team Kapinowski.

"None of this would have been possible without Harry," she said.

"I always ask her, 'Well, do you have one more bounce in you?' " he said.

"She always says, 'Yeah, I do.' And then we go try something. We're always trying something."

Was he concerned Jacqui would falter during the qualifier in Sarasota?

"No, Jack's always pretty centered and focused on what she does," he said. "I knew she was going to go out and get the job done."

For the next few months, Kapinowski will be working to get herself ready for the row of her life.

"I'm focusing on getting into the 'A final' and getting a medal," she said.

"After all, I'll be 54 when I get there. This is the last time I'm going to get the chance to compete in the Paralympics."

Don't bet on that, either.

 

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Paralympian headed to Rio knows no limits

SARASOTA — The smile on Jacqui Kapinowski's face, as wide as her scull was long, wasn't going anywhere.

But she was. To Rio.

“It's mind-blowing,” she said. A 53-year-old, retired, who got back into the water just 13 months ago, had defeated a 28-year-old competitor.

So what that Jacqui Kapinowski couldn't stand to receive her flowers, her gold medal? A disease called stiff person syndrome (SPS) long ago stole her ability to walk. No feeling below her eighth thoracic vertebra.

But plenty above it. “The disease doesn't define who I am.” Last March, a company gave Jacqui a boat. Another provided the oars, “and here I am today.”

And that was Sunday morning, Nathan Benderson Park, for the finals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials for rowing. Kapinowski, her race the second of eight, qualified for the Paralympic Games, taking first in the women's arm and shoulders single scull.

Read the full article here.

PARALYMPIAN TRAINS AT MARTIN HEALTH AND FITNESS CENTER AT PALM CITY

At 53, Jacqui Kapinowski has an athletic career most would envy. She has competed in 80 marathons, six triathlons, has seven national titles and has been a member of three USA teams.

And she didn’t let her wheelchair slow her down.

“I had bacterial meningitis twice and survived,” said Kapinowski, of Tequesta. “The second time I had it, the priest actually read me my last rites. My dad said that he never thought I’d come out of the hospital alive because I was really sick.”

As a result, she developed a rare neurological disorder known as “Stiff Person Syndrome” and became wheelchair bound in her 30s.

Read the full article here.

Tequesta's Jacqui Kapinowski Rowing for Paralympic Gold

Jacqui Kapinowski overcoming rare disease

By: Emerson Lotzia

Juno Beach, Fla. -- A Tequesta woman battling a one-in-a-million disease is not slowing down on her road to a gold medal.

52-year-old Jacqui Kapinowski, bound to a wheelchair for 18 years, is the nation's No. 1 adaptive rower. In two weeks she'll embark on the journey of a lifetime to Aiguebillet, France, where she'll race in the World Rowing Championships. If she can secure a top-eight finish, she'll earn a trip to the Paralympics next summer in Rio.

Her trip to France will cost $10,000, which is why she's asking for your help. To make a donation and to learn more about Jacqui's battle with "Stiff Person's Syndome" please visit JacquiKapinowski.com .

You can watch Jacqui's story in the video above.

Paralympian Kapinowski Gunning for Spot on US Rowing Team

By John Evenson/CBS12

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) - Since losing the use of both of her legs 20 years ago, Jacqui Kapinowski has taken part in over 80 marathons and won bronze medals for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in both curling and the triathlon. But another major health setback has now inspired her to push the bar even further. This time on the water.

The word unbreakable comes to mind when it comes to Jacqui Kapinowski - "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Jacqui asks. "Is that how the saying goes?"

Bacterial meningitis in her 20's almost took her life, causing her to lose the use of her legs in her mid 30's. 

"I went from running to using canes. I pushed my walker at 3 marathons including the Palm Beach Marathon down here."

Now almost 20 years later she hits the water in between Ironman races, poised to represent Team USA. This time in rowing - her response to being diagnosed cancer in 2013.

"It's one thing to have a disability but to have cancer on top of it," says Coach Susan Saint Sing. "It's a pretty hard hand to be dealt."

"Every day when I'm on that boat I'm like wow," says Jacqui. "I am 52 years old and I get to have the chance to represent the best country in the world."

Jacqui is one week away from competing at nationals in New Jersey - then at the world trials to earn a spot on Team USA. Her ultimate goal is to beat cancer, and to win Olympic gold.

"She keeps that positive attitude," says Saint Sing. "I think she would inspire millions of people worldwide."

"Everyone has a story and I don't think mine is that bad," adds Jacqui. "You know. I think I'm doing A-OK."

After all she's used to battling, and she's used to winning. 

Tequesta Woman Rowing for Gold

Sending a huge thank you to ESPN, WPTV NewsChannel 5, and the incredible Emerson Lotzia for featuring me last night! We're going for the gold in Rio!

Tequesta's Jacqui Kapinowski is rowing her way to the top but its her battle out of the water that's opening eyes around the world. ESPN 106.3 on WPTV's Emerson Lotzia reports. ◂ WPTV NewsChannel 5, Local News Coverage You Can Count On. South Florida, Palm Beach County, Treasure Coast breaking news, weather and traffic.

After the Vancouver Paralympic Games, Part II: Athletes Relax and Take Care of Injuries

By Kathryn Arbour  •  Denver Disability Examiner  •  March 28, 2010 11:15 PM 

In an effort to complete some of the stories that this Examiner followed closely during the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games earlier this month, she contacted several of the athletes a week after Closing Ceremonies. Read what skier Hannah Pennington is doing next in Part I of this two-part series. 

[Team USA wheelchair curling athlete, Jacqui Kapinowski] Jacqui Kapinowski, Team USA wheelchair curling lead, could hardly believe that she was there in Vancouver participating in her first Paralympic Games. “Phenomenal,” she repeated several times when asked to describe the experience. “Everyone was so kind and encouraging.” Kapinowski returned to this theme over and over, noting that the people make these Games, the “everyday people, not just the athletes.” In fact, early in the interview she praised the efforts of P&G, sponsors of the “Thank You, Mom” campaign, designed to bring mothers, and mother-like figures, of all athletes to the Olympics and Paralympics. Kapinowski’s parents were unable to travel because of age and health, but her mother enjoyed and appreciated the gifts, including a significant cash amount, that P&G bestowed upon the athletes’ mothers. She also added that the “goody bags” prepared by P&G for the athletes with every conceivable personal care item possible, meant she did not have to go shopping once while in Vancouver.“They took care of us, too.”

The U.S. wheelchair curling team went into the final rounds tied for first place with Canada, having played every day of the Paralympics. They made it ultimately to the bronze round, losing to Sweden, 5 – 7. Kapinowski is still playing that last round in her head, unable to shake some of the “unfortunate” moments, including a shot gone bad because of ice build up under the stone. In able-bodied curling, sweepers move ahead of the stone, clearing the ice of debris, other build up of residue and otherwise helping guide the stone to its destination “in the house.” The absence of brooms represents the only difference in wheelchair curling. And, this time it made a very big difference. However, ending up fourth in the world at only the second Paralympics showing for this sport is something to feel proud of. And, she does.

Curling became a sensation after its debut at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. Wheelchair curling became a full-medal sport in the 2006 Turino Paralympic Winter Games where Canada took the gold medal. 

An athlete most of her life, Kapinowski became a wheelchair racer about seven years ago at age 40, when her disability, Stiff Person syndrome (SPS), a rare neurological disorder, worsened. Previously, she ran marathons using a walker, and sometimes without, depending on the day. In 2007 during a wheelchair racing event in Utica, NY, Jimmy Joseph (JAM for short) of the U.S. Wheelchair Curling team, introduced Jacqui to Mark DePerno, an occupational therapist and director of the Sitrin STARS (Success Through Adaptive Recreation and Sports) in Utica. From the moment she tried wheelchair curling, she had “this feeling in my gut that it was right for me.” She found the ways to incorporate curling into her life, practicing every day. Four months later she threw her first stone in competition and came home with the bronze. She was on the U.S. Team the following year. She said her teammates are “awe inspiring and a lot of fun.” 

What is next for Jacqui Kapinowski? Surgery. She has a torn tendon in her left arm (she is left-handed) that required constant treatment during the Games so she could continue playing. “I’m not looking forward to it, but I have to do it.” But first, she and her Paralympic and Olympic peers will meet at The White House on April 21. President Obama has invited Team USA to come celebrate with him. “I’m almost as excited about that as I was about making the Team.” 

As Team USA made its way to Vancouver, they came to Denver for processing. Put simply “processing” is a chance for the athletes to get stuff – SWAG, as it is called – from the U. S. Olympic Committee sponsors. SWAG includes tailor-made outfits from designers such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Nike that the athletes wear at Opening and Closing ceremonies. The customization process for athletes with disabilities takes a bit longer, so “processing” gave the Paralympians two days in Denver.

Point Pleasant's Kapinowski Headed to World Rowing Championships


WRITTEN BY DAVID BIGGY • STAFF WRITER • JUNE 30, 2011
 
WEST WINDSOR — At 83, Jimmy Woods and his 73-year-old wife, Kate, could have stayed home in Tequesta, Fla., to enjoy some fishing or other activities on the Sunshine State’s East Coast Wednesday morning.

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Instead Jacqui Kapinowski’s parents opted to stand along the southern banks of Mercer Lake, to witness their daughter’s phenomenal strides toward yet another world-class athletic achievement.

“When Jacqui told me last year she was going to row, I said, ‘Go for it, girl,’ ” said Jimmy Woods, who along with his wife drove some 1,200 miles from Tequesta to Point Pleasant on Sunday and Monday to make sure they could be here to see Kapinowski and mixed-doubles rowing partner Anthony Davis win the 1,000-meter event in the U.S. Rowing Adaptive World Championship Trials.

The victory, which took Kapinowski and Davis all of 4:17.16 to complete, sends the duo to Bled, Slovenia, for the World Rowing Championships from Aug. 28-Sept. 4, where they will attempt to qualify for next year’s London Paralympics.

Kapinowski, who has Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) and no use of her legs, last year competed for the U.S. Curling team at the Vancouver Paralympics, and after retiring from curling took up rowing at the end of June last year. For many years prior to her curling endeavors, which started in 2006, Kapinowski used a wheelchair racer to compete in running events, including marathons.

In fact, now that Kapinowski has earned a spot on the U.S. rowing team for the World Championships, she’s going to travel back to the U.S. Rowing training center in Oklahoma City to prepare, but not before she makes a stop in the Windy City for the Chicago Marathon.

“She trains like crazy,” Jimmy Woods said. “She just keeps on going.”

Kapinowski and Davis certainly were going at the start of Wednesday’s World Championship trials final. Competing in the Trunk-Arms (TA) class, the tandem sprung from the start line, chugged their way to a lead well before the 250-meter mark and simply surged on, never slowing until they streaked across the finish line 15 seconds ahead of the second-place boat.

“Our start was really good,” Kapinowski said. “You want to be able to see your competition in front of you and keep it that way throughout the race. We really put our best out there today. Our coach (Matt Muffelman) said that was a medal race.”

In last year’s World Championships, the TA mixed-doubles team of Dmytro Ivanov and Iryna Kyrychenko of the Ukraine won the gold in 4:24.71 at Lake Karapico, near Cambridge, New Zealand.

If Kapinowski and Davis manage a top-eight finish in Slovenia, they will qualify for London 2012. Kapinowski only started with the U.S. Rowing developmental camp in April, and she’s been training with Davis the past eight weeks.

“I’m in shock. It’s still really hard to believe that I’ve done this well,” Kapinowski said. “The goal is to get to London, and we came to this race very well prepared. But now this is the start of the next phase. Today, we started training for the World Championships.”

And while Kapinowski was still a bit shocked by her accomplishment, her father wasn’t.

“Since she’s been disabled, it’s opened up a whole new world of opportunities for her that she probably wouldn’t have had as an able-bodied person,” Jimmy Woods said. “But I don’t think of her as disabled. I think of her as an athlete. I had no doubt she’d win today.

London ITU Paratriathlon World Championship

What a day bringing home BRONZE! I want to thank all of you for your support & kind words. It was a tough day with all the rain we had. I want to thank my girlfriend Natalie who lives here in London for being my handler & awesome friend!!!! along with my amazing Husband Harry I’m the luckiest girl in world to have the best hubby!!! My cousin Mary & Mick who also live in London who came out sat in the pouring rain. They were in bleachers with the American Flag. Team USA represented today all athletes did incredible job! Congrats to everyone & coaches!!!!