Why the Paralympic Games Matter

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (September 7, 2016)

"Olympians show you what the human body is capable of, Paralympians show what you the human spirit is capable of." –– 2016 Paralympian & 3-time Paralympic medalist Bradley Snyder

Rio’s grand finale is upon us with the start of the 2016 Paralympic Games. Taking center stage now are more than 4,300 athletes from 165 countries competing across 20 sports, each showcasing their own athletic prowess, the power of will and the essence of inspiration.

We would encourage you to read the blog entry written by Elyse Snyder, the sister of 2016 Paralympian and 3-time Paralympic medalist, that tells us why we should care about the Paralympic Games. It’s an excellent read and helped provide the fuel needed for our own expose. 

Why You Should Care About The Paralympic Games

Specifically, within the shooting sports, there’s examples throughout as to why you need to be paying attention including: 

  • Largest U.S. Paralympic Shooting Team ever with eight athletes.
  • Real potential for the first Paralympic shooting medals since 2004.  
  • Two active-duty soldier athletes and one Marine veteran ready for action. 

Mike Tagliapietra. Photo courtesy of DeWitt Photos.Those storylines aside, it’s the advancement of sport and the Paralympic movement that is perhaps most intriguing.  Every athlete competing in the shooting competition provides proof that this is a sport for everyone. A 74-year-old Australian has the very real opportunity to win a 12th Paralympic medal.   

Among the U.S. contingent, some used the sport to rehabilitate and to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  Others came to the sport because the physical toll of other sports was too much to bear. Whatever their reason, today they are the proudest Americans alive having all achieved something they never thought possible.  

Over the next 10 days, allow yourself the opportunity to indulge in another sports spectacle. The feats will astound you, the stories will move you and as Paralympian Tricia Downing talks about as a motivational speaker, you’ll for sure be REDEFINING ABLE 

With contests closer than ever, records tumbling and standards rising all the time, 147 of the world’s best shooters are ready for the start of what is expected to be fierce Paralympic competition. 

Rio 2016 marks 40 years since shooting made its debut at the Toronto Paralympic Games in 1976. The growth and development of the sport continues to impress, with 15 qualification and finals world records broken at IPC Shooting World Cups in 2015. 

Among the most prolific foreign athletes are Australia’s Libby Kosmala and Sweden’s Jonas Jacobsson. The pair will be making their 12th and 10th appearance at a Paralympics Games, respectively. Both competitors will be out to extend their record medal haul with Jacobsson chasing a lucrative 18th gold medal, while the 74-year-old Kosmala will be hoping to make it 12 medals to match her Paralympic appearances. 

“A lot of people cannot believe that a woman in her seventies can still be competing at an international Olympic or Paralympic Games,” Kosmala said. “But rifle shooting is a sport where if you are still able to hold the rifle without any tremor, and you can still see well, you can still shoot very well.” 

McKenna Dahl.  Photo courtesy of Brad Armstrong.Frankly, stories are everywhere, but here’s the storylines that matter to you relative to your eight U.S. Paralympic Shooting Team members.  

McKenna Dahl (Arlington, Washington) – Rifle

The Olympic Training Center Resident Athlete earned her Paralympic quota during the 2014 World Championships. At the age of 12, Dahl tried shooting for the first time at a summer camp. Originally a wheelchair basketball player, she preferred shooting because it was an individual sport. She was born with amyoplasia in her left hand and both of her feet, causing her muscles not to form properly. 

Mike Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wis.) – Pistol

The two-time USA Shooting Paralympic Athlete of the Year has demonstrated that he’s medal contender after winning a quota during the 2014 IPC World Championships and finishing first at the IPC World Cup in Sydney in September 2015. He was involved in car accident in August 2003, which resulted in paraplegia. 

John Joss (Corsicana, Texas) – Rifle

The true breakout year for USA Shooting’s Paralympic Program came in 2013 to begin the new quad and leading that charge was this Army sergeant, who competes as part of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Enlisted in 2004, Joss lost a portion of his right leg as result of injuries suffered when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an IED while serving in Iraq. 

Tammy Delano (Rome, New York) – Rifle

Shook off neck surgery, the death of her father and few other unlucky breaks just to reach this pinnacle moment as a 2016 Paralympian.  Born with spina bifida, she was introduced to the shooting sports in 2009 through a clinic conducted by the NRA’s Disability Shooting Services. She was an alternate for the Wheelchair Curling Team for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. 

Jazmin Almlie-Ryan (Houston, Texas) – Rifle

Three months after having her first child in 2015, Almlie-Ryan earned two trips to the Finals, a Paralympic quota and a gold medal in Mixed Prone Air Rifle. Since she was 18, Jazmin has battled progressive spastic myelopathy that started in her lower back, forced her into a wheelchair when she was 22, and now has progressed into her cervical spine area affecting her hands, wrist and arms. 

Tricia Downing (Denver, Colorado) – Pistol

Out cycling on September 17, 2000, she was hit head on by a car that left her paralyzed from the chest down, requiring a wheelchair for mobility.  The injury reignited her passion for sports as evidenced by the 100 races, including marathons, duathlons and triathlons, she’s competed in since her accident. She was the first female paraplegic to complete an Ironman triathlon and qualified for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in 2006 and 2010. In 2011, she competed as part of the U.S. Rowing team at the World Championships in Bled, Slovenia.  Injuries and pain led her to try the sport of shooting in November 2014 and it helped satisfy her need for an athletic challenge as well as the continual satisfaction she derives in sport.  

Marco DeLaRosa (San Antonio, Texas) – Pistol

Born and raised in Chicago, DeLaRosa was stationed at Camp Pendleton in 1993 when he was attempting to stop a robbery outside of the base and was shot in the back. The bullet – which is still in his back – injured his spinal cord at the T4-T5 levels, leaving the now medically retired Marine Corporal a paraplegic. He has been a quick study in the sport after trying it out during an event with Paralyzed Veterans of America back in 2014. In his first competition at the National Veteran Wheelchair Games, he bested the field by more than 100 points.  

Shaun Tichenor (Brainerd, Minnesota) – Pistol

From 1997-2001 he began his Army career, and then found himself re-enlisting in 2010 as part of the 10th Mountain Division. While many of his future teammates were competing at the 2012 Paralympic Games, Tichenor was deploying to Afghanistan.  While watching over a road suspected of carrying explosive material transports, Tichenor followed in his team’s footsteps through the burning sand and passed over a pressure plate for an improvised explosive device (IED), which activated as he stepped on it. He would choose to amputate his leg and would later join the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and their Paralympic program. 

Competition starts Thursday with Delano taking to the line first in Women’s 10m Air Rifle competition.  For a full preview, click here. 

NBC, which broadcast six hours of coverage from the London Paralympics, is planning more than 70 hours of coverage on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.  Follow the U.S. Paralympic Shooting Team via USA Shooting’s Paralympic FanHub.


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