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Cat Bouwkamp, Ryan Estep and Mario Rodriguez Qualify for 2012 Paralympic Games

08/13/2011, 12:52pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Three members of Team USA realized their dreams of competing at the 2012 London Paralympic Games on Friday when each won gold in a U.S. sweep of the events at the Wheelchair Pan American Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Competing in the second direct qualification event for the London Games, Cat Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.), Ryan Estep (Florence Miss.) and Mario Rodriguez (Ventura, Calif.) each earned berths on the 2012 Paralympic Team.

Rodriguez, a veteran of the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Teams, earned his third trip to the Games with a gold medal win in Category A foil.

Rodriguez went undefeated in the pools and earned a #2 seed in table of 16. After a first-round bye, Rodriguez won his quarter-final bout against Alex Souza (BRA) to advance to the medal rounds.

In the semifinal, Rodriguez found himself trailing against Jorge Michiardi, the Argentinean who defeated Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.) in the quarters. Although he was down by 6-4, he scored five straight touches to take a 9-6 lead before going on to win the bout, 15-10.

After a close semifinal, Rodriguez was aggressive in his bout against Lauro Braschtvogal (BRA) and went on to win the gold, 15-8.

Rodriguez said the win truly sank in as he received the gold medal and heard the Star Spangled Banner play for the first time of the day.

“I never felt more proud to be an American and hear the Star Spangled Banner because I realized that they were playing it for me,” Rodriguez said.

At this time before the Beijing Paralympic Games, 24-year-old Estep had never picked up a sword, let alone dreamed of representing the United States in fencing.  

Estep, a former football player who was injured in a car accident during his senior year of high school, tried the sport for the first time at the Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson after being challenged by a woman on the wheelchair fencing team.

“When I was doing disability counseling, there was a girl who was on the wheelchair fencing team and she said she could kick my butt in fencing, so I thought ‘no way’ and had to try it,” Estep said of his beginnings in the sport.

Just three years later, Estep has become the top Category B fencer in the United States.

Estep earned a third seed in the epee event coming out of the pools which gave him a bye into the quarter-finals.

With little difficulty, Estep won his bout against Lauro Marassaruti (BRA), 15-3, and took a second victory in the semifinals where he defeated Jovane Guissone (BRA), 15-9.

On the opposite side of the table, Estep’s teammate Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.) was fighting for a trip to the finals as well, but lost a close bout to Pierre Mainvile (CAN), 15-12, to finish third overall.

Earlier in the day, Mainvile also defeated three-time Paralympian Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.), 15-2, in the quarter-finals.

Estep avenged his teammates’ losses, however, when he defeated the Canadian for gold, 15-12.

After winning the second gold of the day for Team USA, Estep rushed to celebrate with his teammates.

“I was so overwhelmed when I scored the final touch that I just wanted to share the moment with my team ‘cause all our hard work had finally paid off,” Estep said.

Fifteen-year-old Cat Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.) often finds herself as the youngest athlete in both domestic and international wheelchair events, but with nearly seven years of experience in the sport, the three-time World Cup medalist hopes to be a podium threat in London.

Seeded first out of the pools in Category A foil, Bouwkamp earned a bye into the quarter-finals where she defeated Suelen Rodolpho (BRA), 15-3, shortly after Rodolpho won her table of 16 bout against Sonia Fogal (Flowood, Miss.)

Bouwkamp dominated her next bout as well where she defeated Monica Santos (BRA), 15-2, to advance to the final against Sylvie Morel (CAN) who defeated Bouwkamp’s teammate Sonya Perduta (Phoenix, Ariz.) in the semifinals, 15-5.

Bouwkamp controlled the bout early as she took a 11-4 lead against the Canadian, but Morel – a past Paralympian herself – used her experience to her advantage and soon mounted a comeback.

With Bouwkamp in the lead, 14-12, Morel was given her third red card of the day for starting to fence before the referee said “ready, fence” and Bouwkamp won the bout, 15-12.

Bouwkamp was grinning from ear to ear after the win.

"I was so excited to know that I will be going to London in 2012.  I couldn't stop smiling,” she laughed.

 Competition continues on Saturday when members of Team USA will fence in the men’s Category B foil, men’s Category A epee and women’s Category A epee.

Complete U.S. results are as follows:

Men’s Category A Foil
1. Mario Rodriguez (Ventura, Calif.)

2. Lauro Braschtvogel (BRA)
3. Vidal Angelo Francisco (CHI)
3. Jorge Michiardi (ARG)
5. Alejandro Vieytes Pintos (ARG)
6. Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.)
7. Alex Souza (BRA)
8. Sandro Colasso (BRA)

9. Dennis Aspy (Woodstock, Ga.)

Men’s Category B Epee
1. Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.)
2. Pierre Mainvile (CAN)
3. Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.)
3. Jovane Guissone (BRA)
5. Mauricio Stempniak (BRA)
6. Rodrigo Marassaruti (BRA)
7. Jose Palavicino (ARG)
8. Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Women’s Category A Foil
1. Cat Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.)
2. Sylvia Morel (CAN)
3. Sonya Perduta (Phoenix, Ariz.)
3. Monica Santos (BRA)
5. Sheila Mattik (BRA)
6. Rudineia Manica (BRA)
7. Daiane Peron (BRA)
8. Suelen Rodolpho (BRA)

9. Sonia Fogal (Flowood, Miss.)

Tag(s): News  Catherine Bouwkamp