Moments Of Sportsmanship, Selflessness and Inspiration To Remember From The Tokyo Paralympics

by Bob Reinert

Hagan Landry competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo.


One thing that’s never in short supply at the Paralympic Games is sportsmanship.
It can take many forms — compassion, empathy, support, sacrifice, outright physical assistance — but it always seems to show up during the Games. Tokyo 2020 was no exception.
Here are just a few examples of how the spirit of the Paralympics continues to live on in Team USA.

What do you do at the moment you achieve the biggest accomplishment of your entire life? If you’re Hagan Landry, you think about others.
The day after Hurricane Ida made landfall on his home state of Louisiana, Landry won a silver medal in the men’s shot put F41, breaking his own American record with a throw of 13.88 meters, in his Paralympic Games debut.
The medal performance ended a series of disappointments in Landry’s athletic career. He could have claimed the moment as his alone, but he thought of his grandmother, who kept him from quitting the sport when things got tough, as well as his coach and his fellow Louisianans.
“You don’t come in here expecting a medal,” Landry, of Delcambre, Louisiana, said. “You come here expecting to perform, and I’ve done just that.
“I hope my people got to see it. The majority of them were blowing up my phone this morning saying they’re going to try regardless of the storm, so I hope y’all got to see it. That was for the state of Louisiana. Hopefully, it brings a light in this time of dark.
“My pride for Louisiana comes from Louisiana itself. If you ask anybody from there, we’re prideful. That’s just Louisiana as a whole. There’s no one you’re going to meet there that’s not proud to be from there.” 

Ian Seidenfeld and his dad Mitchell talk during a match at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 25, 2021 in Tokyo.

Nothing is as important as family — not even a Paralympic gold medal.

Ian Seidenfeld demonstrated that in Tokyo. Immediately after earning an upset 3-0 victory over the world’s No. 1 player and defending Paralympic champion Peter Rosenmeier of Denmark to win the men’s table tennis Class 6 tournament, Seidenfeld ran over and hugged his father — and U.S. coach — Mitchell Seidenfeld.

“I was really just focused on the match up until then,” Ian said. “And then I just rushed to him.”

The torch had truly been passed in the Seidenfeld family of Lakeville, Minnesota. Mitchell, himself a four-time Paralympic table tennis medalist, had won his own gold medal 29 years earlier in Barcelona. This one meant even more to him.

“When he started to play table tennis, I knew that he would want to be good,” Mitchell said of Ian. “And he’s had to deal with a lot of pressure because he had to become a gold medalist. And it’s very difficult.”

Though a fierce competitor himself, being a dad was obviously more important to Mitchell, who avoided playing Ian during training for the Paralympic Games. The last thing he wanted to do was beat his son and demoralize him.

“He’s much better now, so it was good that we went that way,” Mitchell said. “We don't need to find out (who is better). I’ll accept it. He’s the gold medalist now.”

Brad Snyder celebrates with his guide Greg Billington at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.

The military teaches teamwork above all else. It’s clear that lesson was never forgotten by Brad Snyder, a Navy veteran who lost his vision during an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan.

After winning the gold medal in the men’s triathlon PVTI at the Tokyo Paralympics, Snyder — the first U.S. man to win a medal in an Olympic or Paralympic individual triathlon event — was quick to credit guide Greg Billington with the achievement.

Billington competed in triathlon at the Rio Olympics in 2016 before teaming with Snyder, who previously won seven Paralympic medals as a swimmer.

“Having stood on the podium a number of times by myself, I can tell you unequivocally it was by far my favorite podium to stand up there with Greg and share that moment with him after doing it together,” Snyder, a Baltimore native, told “The thing about that last bit of the run course, doing it with Greg, he’s right there and I know that I have to push through because I don’t want to disappoint him, he's worked just as hard as I have.

“So, the team dynamic is just such an awesome and rewarding part of triathlon versus some of my other exploits in the Paralympic domain. What’s been amazing about racing with Greg is that Greg has not only stepped in as a guide, but he's helped me out as a mentor, as a coach and now as a friend.

“We’ve been able to train together stride for stride, stroke for stroke over the last three weeks. And we’ve really bonded as friends, as teammates and as competitors.”

Jamal Hill points to the camera after competing at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 22, 2021 in Tokyo.

Swimmer Jamal Hill collected a bronze medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle S9 in his first Paralympics. That performance was important to Hill even more for what it showed others.

It was a boost for his non-profit organization, Swim Up Hill, whose goal is to teach a million people how to swim. The idea is to prevent the hundreds of thousands of drownings that occur each year, mostly in low- and middle- income communities. 

“We have a method that can make (learning how to swim) easy and affordable,” the Inglewood, California, native told “I think when you have a system and you have a plan, what may sound like a big number to others, is really just taking one bite at a time — so we're going to hit that number by LA 2028.”

Sam Grewe competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

When Sam Grewe arrived at the track on Aug. 31 to compete in the Paralympic men’s high jump T63, a gentleman handed him a letter. Grewe took a picture of it and posted it to Twitter with this tweet:

“A local Japanese man just handed me this note shortly after I arrived at the track to compete. Win or lose, this is what it’s all about. This makes it all worth it.”

In the letter, Masaki Kando, who said he works for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, told Grewe about his 13-year-old son, who had osteosarcoma of his right knee at age 10. The family was buoyed when they heard the story of Grewe, a world champion who had overcome the same rare cancer. The boy got involved in youth soccer.

Kando told Grewe that his family supported him. Grewe rewarded that support by winning the high jump. Now Grewe, a two-time Paralympian from Middlebury, Indiana, is off to medical school at the University of Michigan.

“I’m not even a doctor yet, and it’s great to see that I’m filling that role,” said Grewe, “getting people involved in adaptive sports, and seeing what’s possible.”

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.