RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Before racing in the women’s Paralympic triathlon Sunday, U.S. athletes Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell talked about it being the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They had hopes of hearing the U.S. national anthem from the podium.
They all did, after sweeping the medals in the PT2 class in triathlon’s Paralympic debut. Grace Norman also won gold in the women’s PT4 class.
“It’s a great day for America,” said Danisewicz, who won silver, finishing 48 seconds behind Seely’s winning time of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 55 seconds. “On some very, very small level, it proves that Americans have a really great spirit and that whatever setbacks, challenges, obstacles come our way, (we) can rise from the fire.”
Stockwell lost her leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, becoming the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat. On Sunday, she finished third in 1:25:24.
“When it got really tough out there I thought of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it back,” Stockwell said. “They pushed me to the finish — just wanting to give my thanks to them.”
Seely and Danisewicz, both first-time Paralympians, greeted Stockwell at the finish line, waving an American flag as the teammates collapsed into an embrace.
Stockwell, a three-time paratriathlon world champion considered a favorite to win this event, had no complaints about her bronze performance. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympics but did not medal.
“Everything was worth it,” she said Sunday, draped with an American flag. “I would not go back for one second, for one minute. This is the culmination of everything.”
This story has been corrected to show that the first name of Danisewicz is spelled Hailey, not Haley.
Emily Greenwood is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. Penn State and Georgia are partnering with The Associated Press to supplement coverage of the 2016 Paralympics.