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Jumper Trenten Merrill, Sprinter Cheri Madsen Earn Bronze For Team USA In Tokyo

by Katie Grunik

Trenton Merrill celebrates after winning bronze in the men's T64 long jump at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.


Trenten Merrill and Cheri Madsen secured bronze medals on Wednesday during night six of track and field competition at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. 
Merrill jumped 7.08 to secure his bronze medal in the men’s T64 long jump. Germany’s Markus Rehm became a three-time gold medalist with a jump of 8.18. France’s Dimitri Pavade earned silver, jumping 7.39 for a personal best. 
“It’s one of those days where you roll with the punches,” Merrill said. “That was a tough day for me. I fell on one of the jumps, and I had to mentally get back in my zone. It was a challenge for me to get back to my flow state, but I started picking it up and going better and better as we were going on. Honestly I wish we had some more jumps because I felt like I could have gotten a different color medal. But I’m honored, I’m thankful, and I’m healthy.” 
The American came into the event looking to improve on his fourth-place finish in Rio 2016.  Despite a series of strong performances leading to the Games, the road to the podium has was paved with challenges for two-time Paralympian Trenton Merrill. 
In addition to navigating the training during COVID-19 pandemic, a back injury sidelined Merrill from training in the leadup to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The delayed Games became a blessing in disguise. 
“I looked at that as a time to really work on myself,” Merrill said. “It was a lot of rehab, a lot of work on my own trying to keep myself accountable. No one was going to do it for me. I could’ve just sat on the couch but I decided to work really hard and stay really motivated.” 
One of the ways Merrill has stayed grounded throughout the Games is by having fun with his teammates Nick Mayhugh and Hunter Woodhall. The trio have been documenting their time together in Tokyo across their social pages. 
“It’s really cool to hang out with Nick and Hunter,” Merrill said. “They’re really laid back, and they’re younger guys too so for me it’s cool hanging out with them because they remind me of what I was like when I was their age. They’re just goofy guys. They just want to have fun, but also they’re gamers. They want to come out here and they want to compete… I think for me I knew that I wanted to be really lighthearted and laugh when I’m not competing.”
As basking in the glow of earning his first Paralympic medal, Merrill’s focus is on his next race – the 200 meters. He wasn’t sure if he was going to make the team in the 200 so he’s treated the event like he approached the last year – a blessing in disguise. 
“I wanna get out there and fight. I know that I’ve got some great competition so for me I’m just going to stay in my lane,” Merrill said. “I believe in myself, and I think it’s possible for me to go out there and get a medal. It’s going to take a lot of fight. So for me I just want to go out there and run my heart out, stay in my lane and run my own race and that’s what I’m going to do.” 

Cheri Madsen poses on the podium after winning bronze in the women's 100-meter T54 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.


Four-time Paralympian Cheri Madsen scored a podium finish in the women’s 100-meter T54, earning her a full medal set in the event. 

China’s Zhaiqian Zhou won gold in 15.90, and Finland’s Amanda Kotaja took silver in 15.93. Madsen edged out Team USA’s Hannah Dederick to score bronze in 16.33. 

“It was really exciting,” Madsen said. “Hannah and I have been battling back and forth all year so to come away with this medal just means a lot.” 

It’s the first podium finish in the 100-meter for Madsen since she won the event in the Paralympic Games Sydney 2000. Prior to that, she took silver in 100 at Atlanta 1996. 

Madsen never expected to still be competing at the sport’s highest level 25 years after her first Paralympics. The 44-year-old mom said she wasn’t originally planning to compete in Tokyo.

“In Rio, I thought I was just going to do the one Games but my girls really wanted to come to Tokyo,” Madsen said. “Of course they couldn’t be here, but I really trained for Tokyo for them. Winning a medal in the 100 meters is really hard to do. I didn’t get it in Rio and so for me to win one here, a lot of that overspeed work has definitely paid off.” 

Madsen said the one year delayed Games really changed her training, forcing her to focus on distance training and weight lifting in virtual sessions with her coaches in order to preserve her fast twitch muscles. She said it also allowed her younger teammates like Dederick to get faster and stronger. 

“She kept getting closer and closer to me at every meet,” Madsen said. “This year she beat me twice. I think COVID and that extra year really helped her get faster and a little stronger. All it did for me is it just aged me.” 

A veteran on the team, Madsen paved the way for her younger teammate who look up to her. She also hopes her career inspires her daughters, both who are watching and cheering her on from home. 

“I hope they learn that if you work really hard and put in the extra work, things can happen for you,” Madsen said. “My daughter is playing college softball, and I hope that she knows that if you work really hard you can accomplish whatever you want… I want them to know that it’s not always just about winning medals. Its sometimes just setting small goals and being able to reach them. And if you want something bigger, like state, that you have to work a little bit harder for those.” 

Madsen will look take the track on Thursday for her second event in Tokyo – the women’s 400 meter T54, where she is the defending silver medalist from Rio 2016 and Sydney 200 Paralympic champion. 

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table and results.


Katie Grunik is a digital content creator covering the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 for She currently serves as the digital content coordinator for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.