Meet The 14 Para-Cyclists Who Will Represent Team USA In Tokyo
by Chrös McDougall
“In every event in which we have an athlete entered, we have a medal chance,” said Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympic Cycling.
“At the same time we have the most diverse team not only amongst classifications but also among just our cultural diversity. That’s really great to see.”
While there’s a chance additional athletes could be invited to participate, here’s a look at the 14 athletes named to Team USA this weekend.
Samantha Bosco looks on before competing in the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Fellow WC4 cyclists and Rio medalists Samantha Bosco and Shawn Morelli put on two of the most impressive performances at the trials, and now both are dreaming in gold for Tokyo.
At the trials, cyclists were compared relative to the Tokyo qualification standard for their respective classifications. Racing under sunny skies in Minneapolis, Morelli, a two-time gold medalist in Rio, flew up the final hill and recorded the best run of the day among all women. Moments later, however, Bosco bested it.
Bosco, of Upland, California, said she’s motivated to win a gold medal in Tokyo after claiming two bronzes in Rio. Also a track cyclist, she has a gold and nine other medals between the disciplines at the world championships. Morelli, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, also does both disciplines. A veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Morelli has 12 gold medals from 10 total world championships.
Also back for more in Tokyo is Chris Murphy (MC5), who finished fourth in the track team spring and top-10 in both road cycling events at the Rio Games. A native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, Murphy has had much of his success on the track, including winning a silver and bronze medal at the track world championships just before the pandemic began.
One of the rising stars as both a road and track cyclist, Clara Brown (WC3) is headed to her first Paralympics after having already locked up six world championships medals in her short career. The native of Falmouth, Maine, competed in gymnastics and other sports as a kid, and after sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury at age 12 eventually found her way in Para-cycling. Her breakout came following an invite to a talent identification camp in 2018.
Just a few weeks ago, Cody Jung (MC4) didn’t know if the Paralympics would be in the cards for him. Then he went out and strung together some big results, including a silver medal in the time trial at the world championships earlier this month in Portugal. Traveling straight from that event to Minneapolis, Jung went all out on the West River Parkway course, and it paid off with a Paralympic berth for the Poway, California, native.
Also going to his first Paralympics is Aaron Keith (MC1), a native of Woodinville, Washington, who competes on both the road and track. A national team member since 2013, his Paralympic debut comes after 10 appearances at the world championships.
Alicia Dana competes in the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The most experienced U.S. group brings back five Paralympians among the six going to Tokyo.
A former college volleyball player turned Navy veteran, Will Groulx (MH2) goes into Tokyo with four Paralympics to his name, though the first three came in wheelchair rugby, where he won a gold and two bronze medals. He doubled that total in his Paralympic debut in cycling in 2016, winning the road race while taking home silver medals in the time trial and relay. The Portland, Oregon, native also has 16 medals, including three gold, from the world championships.
Putney, Vermont, native Alicia Dana (WH3) also returned from Rio with some hardware, winning a silver medal in the time trial. She upgraded that to a gold medal at the most recent world championships, in 2019, where she also took second in the road race. Tokyo will be the 52-year-old’s third Paralympics.
Army veteran Tom Davis (MH4) is heading back to the Paralympics after a dominating performance at the trials this weekend, where he had the top time of any athlete relative to their respective Tokyo qualification standard. After finishing fourth in the road race and sixth in the time trial in Rio, Davis skipped some races this season to focus on Tokyo prep, and that showed in Minneapolis.
Four years ago in Rio, Oksana Masters (WH5) fell just short of the podium, finishing fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. The multi-sport star, who has won a combined eight Paralympic medals as a rower and Nordic skier, crashed at the trials this weekend and was unable to finish, but she’ll now have her opportunity to add to that in Tokyo. The Louisville native won two silver medals at the most recent road world championships in 2019.
Freddy de los Santos (MH5) is also headed back to the Paralympics with something to prove after finishing fourth in the road race in Rio. A native of Hopewell Junction, New York, de los Santos joined the Army after 9/11 but lost his leg and sustained a traumatic brain injury when the vehicle he was traveling in was attacked in Afghanistan. After struggling with depression and substance abuse, he discovered Para-cycling and now at age 51 is headed to his second Paralympics.
The lone first-time Paralympian among the handcyclist group is Ryan Pinney (MH3), who is coming in hot after a pair of wins at April’s U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open and his first world cup medal at a May event in Belgium. Hailing from Cave Creek, Arizona, Pinney made his world championships debut in 2019 and is known for his flashy hand cycle that’s painted magenta and gray and features his daughter Addison’s initials, among other decorations.
Matt Rodriguez competes in the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Both U.S. tricyclists are set to make their Paralympic debuts in Tokyo, and both are among the oldest members of the squad.
After first testing himself on a stationary bike, Matt Rodriguez (MT2), now 49, tried riding a tricycle on the streets around his house in San Diego. In 2019 he made his international debut, winning two silver medals at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, before finishing seventh in the road race and 13th in the time trial at that year’s world championships.
Monica Sereda (WT2) used the Paralympic Games postponement to reset her training and address lingering injuries. That paid off for the 53-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida. The retired U.S. Army veteran is going to her first Paralympics after having previously competed in the 2017 and 2018 world championships.