skip navigation

U.S. Paralympic Team to be Finalized in Sao Paulo, May 26-28

05/25/2016, 12:00pm CDT
By Bill Kellick and Nicole Jomantas

Gerard Moreno is seeking to qualify for his fifth straight Paralympic Games in Brazil.

Ten U.S. athletes will attempt to earn berths in the 2016 Paralympic Games as the final Paralympic qualifier, the Pan American Wheelchair Championships, takes place from May 26-28 in San Paulo, Brazil. The winners of each event will automatically earn a spot in Rio.

Two members of the 2012 Paralympic Team are looking to return to the Games in Rio with Joey Brinson (Florence, Miss.) aiming for his second Games and 2012 Team Captain Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) seeking to become the first U.S. athlete to fence in five straight Games. Both Brinson and Moreno are saber specialists in the Category B event. Moreno also will attempt to qualify in his secondary weapon, foil. Brinson fell one win short of a medal finish at the 2013 Wheelchair Worlds where he placed eighth in the saber event and will compete in epee as well.

“The competition will be intense as the stakes are high,” Moreno said. “It would mean the world to me to be able to represent and compete for the USA at my fifth Paralympic Games.”

Lauryn DeLuca (Parma, Ohio) is looking to become one of USA Fencing’s youngest Paralympians in history. The 16-year-old entered the sport as an able-bodied fencer, but was recruited to wheelchair fencing when Paralympic Coach Les Stawicki (Louisville, Ky.) saw her competing at a tournament in Ohio and discovered she had cerebral palsy. Still new to the international circuit, the Category A epee and foil fencer has lost just one direct elimination bout to a U.S. fencer since 2014. DeLuca was unable to compete at the 2015 Senior Wheelchair Worlds, but finished in the top eight at the Junior World and secured both epee and foil medals at the 2015 Zonal Championships.

Tournaments are harder when there are Paralympic spots contended for. They are tougher physically and mentally. We all have been training for this for a while, so our bodies are at their peak,” Deluca said.

Although the Parma High School sophomore said she believes in staying humble, she noted that, if she qualified for Rio “It’ll show all the people that made rude comments to me when I was little that a girl with a limp did amount to something."

DeLuca will be joined in the Category A female epee and foil events by Patricia Dykes (Gulf Breeze, Fla.) and Vikki Espinosa (Portland, Ore.), a member of the 2015 Wheelchair World Team and the top-ranked U.S. woman in both the Category A epee (23rd) and Category A foil (25th) world rankings. There will be no competition in the women’s epee or foil in Category B at the Pan American Wheelchair Championships, and there is no saber event in the Paralympic Games for women in either category.

For Espinosa, the qualifying event will be both her final chance to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic Team as well as a return to the country she lived in for much of her teenage years.

“I grew up in Rio de Janeiro. I lived in Brazil from 1979 to 1985 and I attended seventh thru 12th grade at the American School in Rio,” said Espinosa who remains fluent in Portuguese and plans to see friends in Sao Paulo during the tournament. “I am both nervous and excited for this competition. I've been working for two years for this chance to take gold in foil or epee, but i's very hard to train in two weapons at the same time.”

Although Ellen Geddes (Johnston, S.C.) competed at the 2013 and 2015 Wheelchair World Championships in the Category B epee and foil events, there will be no Category B competition in Sao Paulo for women. Undeterred, Geddes will fence up to Category A where she seeks to challenge DeLuca, Dykes and Espinosa for a position on the team. While Geddes has medaled on the World Cup circuit in Category B and recently won the combined category gold medal at the October North American Cup last year, she has never fenced in the A Category in international competition.

In the Category A event for men’s foil, the U.S. will field the team of three-time Wheelchair World Team member Dennis Aspy (Woodstock, Ga.), 2013 Wheelchair World Team member Russell Oswalt Von Ormy, Texas) and 2015 National Champion Andrew Quattrociocchi (Kennesaw, Ga.) who are each vying to represent Team USA for the first time at the Paralympic Games.

Aspy, Oswalt and Quattrociocchi will each fence in the Category A epee event as well where they will be joined by Leo Curtis (Rainier, Wash.), a 2013 Wheelchair World Team member who won bronze at last year’s Pan Ams.

Competition schedule is as follows:

Thursday, May 26
Category A Men’s Epee
Category B Men’s Epee
Category A Women’s Foil
Category B Men’s Saber

Friday, May 27
Category A Men’s Foil
Category B Men’s Foil
Category A Men’s Saber

Category A Women’s Epee

Saturday, May 28
Men’s Team Foil
Men’s Team Epee

Tag(s): News