10 Texans to represent U.S. at Tokyo Paralympics
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Sixteen days after the 2020 Olympic Cauldron was extinguished in Tokyo, Japan, the flame will rekindle once more- this time for the 4,400 athletes competing at the Paralympic Games, all of which come with their own story. Of the 234 members representing Team USA, 10 hail from the Lone Star State. One of the oldest is Michael Godfrey, 57, of Dublin, Texas.
Godfrey, a lifelong bull-rider, has been in a wheelchair since 1996, following a freak accident with a bull. Since then, he has discovered a new passion, table tennis. He’s been so committed to winning this year, he even flew in a coach from Argentina to help him train. His competition begins Tuesday night, and it will be one of the first events in Tokyo.
While Godfrey is gearing for up for his first trip to the Paralympic Games, discus thrower Jeremy Campbell of Perryton will be making his fourth appearance. Campbell already has three golds on his resume, along with an ESPY award in 2013 for “Best Male Athlete with a Disability”. Even though he was born with fibular hemimelia, which resulted in a right leg amputation one year later, he went on to play football and basketball for the Perryton Rangers, and excelled in both sports. Other Texans joining him in track and field will be long jumpers Tobi Fawehinmi (Mansfield), recent Hardin Simmons grad Tanner Wright, and sprinter Deja Young (Mesquite).
Along with their counterparts in the Olympic Games, many Paralympians arrive with military experience, and they compete with lifelong injuries suffered in battle. One of which is U.S. Army Sgt. John Joss of Burkburnett. Joss, an active member of the U.S. Army’s Marksmanship Unit, who lost part of his right leg during a 2007 ambush in Iraq. Five years after taking aim during his first Paralympic experience in Rio, Joss will try his shooting skills once more. He competes in the Mixed 50m Rifle Prone competition.
Triathlete Katy Elmlinger of San Antonio also has served in the U.S. Army, with multiple assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, but has also survived a battle with cancer. While she was already a competitive runner, she took a break in 2013 because of the pain felt in her right leg. Upon being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma soon after, she would need that leg amputated. Elmlinger has since won a national title (2018) and would place second on the world stage one year later.
Another cancer survivor representing South Texas is first-time Paralympian Jillian Williams of Odem, who will be helping the United States defend its 2016 gold in sitting volleyball. One year after her graduation from Sinton High School in 2015, she elected to undergo rotationplasty after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. The Coastal Bend standout says the amputation was the happiest moment in her life because of the opportunities found afterwards.
Other Texans competing in Tokyo will be wheelchair basketball star Kaitlyn Eaton of Houston, and rifle shooter Jazmin Almlie-Ryan of Katy. Almlie-Ryan was once a wheelchair hoopster herself, but discovered a new passion while a tournament was cancelled. That same adaptive sports event hosted an air rifle competition, where the winner would win a trip to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Since then, she has become a two-time Paralympian, and her trip to Tokyo is a return to her birthplace.
The Games begin August 24, and will run through September 5. NBC will be providing a record 1,200 hours of Paralympic coverage across its various platforms, including KCBD-TV. The opening ceremony airs 6 a.m. Tuesday and will re-air 12 hours later on the same channel, both broadcast on NBCSN. In addition to the Texas athletes competing, fans can also catch swimmer Jessica Long, wheelchair track star Tatyana McFadden, and swimmer-turned-triathlete Bradley Snyder. In the last 17 years, the three have won a combined total of 47 medals, 25 of them gold.
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