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Rio Paralympic Games – One Year Out

09/07/2015, 3:30am CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Four-time Paralympian Gerard Moreno.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – One year from today, the cauldron will be lit in Rio de Janeiro as the Opening Ceremony is celebrated at the Paralympic Games in Brazil.

Down from 99 athletes at the London Games, a maximum of 88 athletes will qualify for 10 individual wheelchair events in Rio with competition being held in two disability categories (A and B). All three men’s weapons (epee, foil and saber) will be held in Rio as well as women’s epee and foil. In addition, team events also will be held in men’s and women’s epee and foil.

U.S. athletes began the 21-month qualification process for the Rio Games on Sept. 1, 2014 and are vying against top fencers from at least 25 nations for the chance to represent their country in Rio.

Athletes can qualify for the Games in one of three ways: winning the 2015 Wheelchair World Championships (Sept. 17-24 in Egers, Hungary), winning the Pan American Wheelchair Championships (TBD 2016) or qualifying via the World Rankings.

Two members of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team are among the athletes aiming for a return to the Games in 2016.

Voted captain of the U.S. Fencing Team in London, Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) represented Team USA at the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games in the Category B foil and saber events. At 58-years-old, Moreno remains at the top of his game, recently winning two National Championship titles in April with gold medal wins in both foil and saber and taking silver at the Pan Ams later that month in Montreal.

In 2011, Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.) received news that his primary event, Category B saber, wouldn’t be contested at the Pan Ams, but a successful season on the World Cup circuit allowed Brinson to push past the setback and earn a position on Team USA through his position in the World Rankings. In 2013, Brinson earned a career-best result at the Wheelchair World Championships where he came one victory short of a medal with an eighth-place finish. Brinson has continued to grow as an epee fencer as well, winning his first National Championship in his secondary weapon in April and following with a bronze at the Pan Ams.

On the women’s side, 16-year-old Lauryn DeLuca (Parma, Ohio) made the transition from able-bodied youth fencing to Category A wheelchair fencing in 2013 and soon became one of the sport’s faces to watch. The reigning National Champion in both foil and epee earned a top eight result in her Grand Prix debut last year and claimed her first international medal at the Pan Ams in April where she won silver in epee and bronze in foil.

DeLuca’s teammate, Vikki Espinosa (Portland, Ore.), also will be in contention for the Category A epee and foil positions as well. Espinosa, who took up the sport after years of watching her daughter Julia Espinosa (Portland, Ore.) compete at the national level, began competing for the first time in 2014, but made her mark this season with a pair of bronze medal wins at the Pan Ams.

An equestrian before her car accident, Category B fencer Ellen Geddes (Johnston, S.C.) earned her first international podium finish at the Montreal Grand Prix last season and will fence at her second Wheelchair Worlds next month where she will represent the United States on a team that also includes Espinosa and Brinson.

The next stop on the Road to Rio for Team USA is the Wheelchair World Championships later this month, after which nearly 20 Paralympic hopefuls will travel the world fighting for qualification points with the final teams being announced at the conclusion of the World Cup circuit on May 31, 2016. 

Tag(s): News  Joseph Brinson