This week’s US Paralympic Trials in Minneapolis will feature a lot of familiar names. The marquee sports of swimming, cycling, and track & field will all be setting their rosters at the Trials, so high-profile amputee athletes (and previous medal winners) such as Jessica Long, Hunter Woodhall, Jerome Singleton, and Rudy Garcia-Tolson will be on hand.
But there will be plenty of new faces as well. These amputee athletes haven’t competed in the Paralympics before, but they’ve excelled in other international meets and put themselves into serious contention for slots on the national team—and, in some cases, for medals in Tokyo. Here’s an introduction to six amputees who are poised to make their mark this week as Team USA takes shape.
Matthew Torres, swimmer
Torres starred at the Parapan Games in 2019, winning six medals (two gold), and followed that up with a dominant performance at the US Nationals in December 2019. In his return to international competition two months ago, he set a scorching pace in the 400 meter freestyle at the Para Swimming World Series event in Lewisville, Texas. His 4:30.07 mark in the preliminary heat is the fastest recorded anywhere in the world this year by a classification S8 swimmer. Torres also excels in the 100m backstroke. He’s a heavy favorite to earn a spot on Team USA and might win some hardware in Tokyo. Read more about Torres.
Jason Macom, cyclist
A track specialist, Macom won two silver medals in his first World Championships appearance back in 2020 and finished just off the podium in a third event. That was just before the pandemic hit—and the pandemic wasn’t kind to Macom. He got seriously dehydrated during a summer training ride, then suffered a concussion and other injuries in a bike-on-bike collision last fall. To cap off the year, he got COVID. He has bounced back from all of that well enough to finish third in his most recent time trial, a World Cup event in Ostend, Belgium.
Jonathan Gore, sprinter
As a recent amputee (he lost his left leg below the knee in 2018), Gore has no experience in international para athletics. He participated in his first para meet of any kind just a few weeks ago, at the Desert Challenge Games. But he seems to be a fast learner: Gore won the 100 meter sprint in his classification (T64) with a time of 11.09 seconds—the fastest mark posted this year by anyone who’ll be appearing at the Trials. He also excelled in the 200 meters. The US para track field is loaded with talent, and it’s not clear how Gore will fare under pressure.
Morgan Stickney, swimmer
If the Paralympics had been held in 2020, Stickney would have missed them while recovering from amputation surgery in October 2019. The postponement gave her time to get back into the pool and rebuild her strength. At the Para Swimming World Series in April, Stickney showed how far she has come, besting teammate Jessica Long (and the rest of the field in classification S8) in the 400m freestyle. She’ll be competing in both the 400m and the 50m freestyle at Minneapolis.
Travis Gaertner, handcyclist
In another lifetime long ago, Gaertner won two gold medals for Team Canada in wheelchair basketball. Now, 17 years removed from his last Paralympic appearance, he has regained his taste for competition as a handcyclist. In 2019 he took bronze at the World Championships in road racing and finished first in a World Cup race that year. In his most recent outing, a World Cup race in Belgium last month, Gaertner finished fifth in the time trial, but first among the four US racers who entered.
Beatriz Hatz, sprinter
Hatz was a dominant force in junior para athletics, taking two world championships at that level and earning recognition as the nation’s top high school track and fielder in 2018. She advanced to the finals in two events at the 2019 World Championships, taking 5th in the 200 meters and 8th in the 100. Now two years older and stronger, Hatz has recorded this year’s fastest time in the 200 meters among US runners and is neck and neck in the 100 with teammate Femita Ayanbeku. She’s virtually a sure thing to make the team, but Hatz is still worth watching this week. Read more about Hatz.