2016 Rio Paralympics Filled with “Firsts” for US Athletes with Intellectual Disability

Rio 2016 Paralympics LogoThe 2016 Rio Paralympic was filled with firsts for US para-athletes with intellectual disability. On the very same day of competition both Brianna Clark and Michael Brannigan became the first US athletes with intellectual disability to medal at the Parlympics. Clark handily won the Gold in the Women’s 400m with a time of 57.79 and Brannigan took Gold in the men’s 1500m with a time of 3:51.73. Tysheem Griffin was also selected to the team and competed in the men’s 400m following strong medal performances at the 2015 Inas Global Games in Ecuador and 2016 US Paralympics Team Trials.

In swimming Leslie Cichocki became the first swimmer with intellectual disability to make Team USA, qualifying in three events and placing 7th in the 100m backstroke finals.

Benjamin Hadden was the first table tennis player with intellectual impairment to be selected for a US Paralympic Team, winning Gold at 2015 Para Pan American Games to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics.

In 2010 the IPC voted to re-include athletes with intellectual impairment in three sports. Since track runner Michael Murray became the first US athlete to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympics,  having five athletes selected in each of the three sports in 2016 — and two gold medal wins — is certainly a strong step forward for US para-athletes with intellectual disability.