The Closing Ceremony celebrated a wonderful Paralympic Games that saw Team USA win 31 gold medals.
By Josh Barr
Team USA sent 227 athletes to the London 2012 Paralympic Games and they combined to win 97 medals, finishing fourth in the medal count.
Team USA athletes won 31 gold medals, 29 silver and 37 bronze. Among the champions were third-time Paralympian Jessica Long, who won five swimming gold medals, racer Tatyana McFadden, who broke through for her first gold medals and 18-year-old Paralympic newcomer Raymond Martin, who won four golds.
18-year-old Raymond Martin won four gold medals then headed off to begin college.
Raymond Martin missed his first two weeks as a college student to participate at London 2012. A handful of University of Illinois students and alumni competing on Team USA eased his concerns about showing up late to classes and his performance on the track showed that there was good reason for his choice.
Martin won all four of his events – the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meters in the T52 class – and was named the U.S. Paralympic SportsMan of the Year. Martin’s first victory, in the 100, was a surprise as he beat teammate and world record holder Paul Nitz. That victory served as a springboard.
“Standing on the podium for the first time, getting a gold medal, hearing your anthem – it’s something that nothing can compare to,” Martin said. “I look back to that 100 and it definitely puts a smile on my face.”
Nick Taylor (pictured above) and David Wagner formed the world’s top quad doubles team.
Nick Taylor and David Wagner won their third consecutive Paralympic tennis gold medal, beating the crowd favorite opponents from Great Britain in the quad men’s doubles championship match.
“We had maybe 40 of us total Americans against the other 5,000 British fans,” Wagner said. “It was really cool. It was like a Davis Cup atmosphere. It really was just rowdy, wild. It was really, really good.”
Taylor and Wagner were named the U.S. Paralympic Team of the Year.
Tatyana McFadden won three gold medals at London 2012.
Tatyana McFadden had close calls in her first two Paralympic Games, winning four silver medals and two bronze. At London 2012, she finally broke through for gold. McFadden dominated the T54 women’s 400 meters, winning by a staggering 1.2 seconds. She went on to win gold in the 800 by nearly three seconds and 1,500 as well.
“Won my FIRST gold medal ever at the games!!” McFadden tweeted after winning the 400. “have no words to describe this feeling. Thanks for all the wonderful support!!!!!!”
Former U.S. Naval Academy swim team captain Brad Snyder rediscovered swimming after his injury.
One year to the day after an explosion while serving in Afghanistan left him blind, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder scored an emotional victory in the men’s 400 S11 freestyle to win his second gold medal of the Games.
Captain of the swim team at the U.S. Naval Academy, Snyder rediscovered swimming after his injury. His first gold medal at London was in the men’s 100 S11 freestyle and he added silver in the 50 free.
“It is really hard to imagine I’ve come this far in a year,” Snyder said after winning the 100. “This whole journey has been one foot in front of the other; each step has held an immense degree of uncertainty even down to this morning. I didn’t know how the swim would go or how my nerves would be in front of all the people. It even carried into tonight but to be able to come out and perform and get to the wall is an amazing feeling.”
Jessica Long set five Paralympic records and two world records in London.
Swimmer Jessica Long dominated the pool in London, winning five gold medals, two silver and one bronze as she was named the U.S. Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year. Long set Paralympic records in all five of her victories and world records in the S8 100- and 400-meter freestyle.
“I truly just love what I do,” Long said. “I hope kids with or without a disability look at me as a good role model and want to get out and do what I’m doing and get involved in sports and everything.”
Matt Stutzman showed his precision in London.
An archer who uses his feet to shoot because he was born without arms, Matt Stutzman won the silver medal in individual compound archery.
Stutzman earned a dramatic semifinal victory, twice coming from behind to force a decisive fifth set where he was perfect with three 10-point arrows.
“My goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude,” Stutzman said. “Never say never. If I can do this, with no arms, anything is possible. I have enjoyed every minute of it. It makes me want to try harder in 2016.”