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Team USA to Compete for Paralympic Slots at Wheelchair Pan Ams in Sao Paulo

08/10/2011, 8:16am CDT
By No Author

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – With just over a year remaining before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Paralympic Games, a team of 10 wheelchair fencers arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil today to compete for automatic berths to the 2012 Games.  

U.S. athletes will compete in individual events at the Pan American Championships against fencers from throughout North and South America with the gold medalist of each of the three men’s and two women’s events earning berths to the 2012 Paralympic Games.

On the women’s side, 15-year-old Catherine Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.) began competing as an able-bodied saber fencer seven years ago and was recruited into wheelchair fencing when her disability made it difficult for Bouwkamp to continue to compete in able-bodied events. Now the reigning Wheelchair National Champion in both epee and foil has become virtually undefeated in U.S. competition and is a top hope for gold at the Pan Ams where she will face Canadian Paralympian Sylvia Morel. Bouwkamp defeated Morel in both the epee and foil at the North American Cup in March and the Canadian will likely be Bouwkamp’s toughest competition in the Category A events.

Sonia Fogal (Flowood, Miss.) and Sonya Perduta (Phoenix, Ariz.) will each be vying for her first trip to the Paralympic Games in both Category A foil and epee.

Four-time Paralympian Andrea DeMello (New York City, N.Y.) also was scheduled to compete for Team USA, but the women’s Category B events were cancelled.

On the men’s side, three veterans of past Paralympic Teams will compete for another chance to represent Team USA at the Games.

A three-time Paralympian in Category A, Mario Rodriguez (Ventura, Calif.) competed in epee and foil at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta before switching from epee to saber prior to qualifying at the Sydney Games. In 2004, Rodriguez had his best international result with a 10th place finish in saber at the Athens Games, but the saber event is not scheduled to be contested in Sao Paulo.

Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) often competes against Rodriguez in the foil and saber events in the United States where classifications are combined, but the three-time Paralympian (2000, 2004, 2008) will fence in the Category B foil event in Brazil. An 11th place finisher in saber at the Sydney Games, Moreno is hoping to qualify for his fourth Paralympic Team.

Gary Van Der Wiege (Kyle, Texas) competed with Rodriguez and Moreno on the Athens Paralympic Team as both an epee and foil fencer and will enter the Category A epee event this weekend.

Three members of the 2010 Wheelchair World Championship Team will vie for first-time Paralympic berths.

Twenty-four-year-old Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.) is currently ranked 16th in Category B epee and 20th in Category B foil and earned top-10 finishes in both epee and foil at the Montreal World Cup.

Estep’s 2010 World Teammates Dennis Aspy (Woodstock, Ga.) and Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.) will compete in the Category A foil and Category B epee events, respectively.

Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.), who also competes in sled hockey, will be representing Team USA in championship competition for the first time in Category B foil.

Team USA is coached by Les Stawicki (Louisville, Ky.) and Ginny Boydston (Jackson, Miss.) is serving as the team leader.

The competition schedule is as follows:

Friday, August 12
Men’s Foil Category A
Men’s Epee Category B
Women’s Foil Category A

Saturday, August 13
Men’s Epee Category A
Men’s Foil Category B
Women’s Epee Category A

Sunday, August 14
Men’s Team Foil

A complete roster of team members is as follows:

Men’s Category A Foil
Dennis Aspy (Woodstock, Ga.)
Mario Rodriguez (Ventura, Calif.)
Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Men’s Category B Foil
Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.)
Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Men’s Category A Epee
Gary Van Der Wiege (Kyle, Texas)
Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Men’s Category B Epee
Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.)
Ryan Estep (Florence, Miss.)

Women’s Category A Foil
Catherine Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.)
Sonya Fogal (Flowood, Miss.)
Sonya Perduta (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Women’s Category A Epee
Catherine Bouwkamp (Fishers, Ind.)
Sonya Fogal (Flowood, Miss.)
Sonya Perduta (Phoenix, Ariz.)

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