Toronto 2015 welcomed 1,600 para-athletes in early August to the largest Parapan American Games ever. The eight-day event attracted athletes with disabilities from 28 countries for inspiring, recording-breaking competition.
The Parapan Am Games arose in 1999 from the Pan American Games, which began in 1951 and grew into the world’s third largest international multi-sport event, surpassed in size and scope only by the Summer Olympic Games and the Asian Games. Since their start 17 years ago, the Parapan Am Games have helped athletes with disabilities showcase their talents and tell their incredible stories.
Jose Luis Campo, Americas Paralympic Committee president, closed the 2015 Parapan Am Games with these thoughts: “You have entertained us with your high-level performances, and shown that life is about maximizing ability and not perceived disability. You have opened our eyes, transforming impossibility into a life full of possibility. You have shown that together we are one.”
Team USA maximized its possibilities by showing up and showing out with a 239-member contingent that included 10 archers. Here are six ways the U.S. archers made Toronto 2015 the biggest Parapan Am Games yet.
1. They broke records.
Recurve archer Eric Bennett scored an event-record 635 and clinched the No. 1 seed for the men’s recurve open final. Compound archer Matt Stutzman scored an event-record 687 and earned the top seed in the men’s compound open final.
2. They earned champion titles.
Natalie Wells took the women’s recurve gold medal and earned a Paralympic slot for the U.S. recurve women while compound archer Andre Shelby took the men’s compound open gold over teammate Matt Stutzman.
3. U.S. Compound Open Men swept the podium.
Ben Thompson shot against Canadian archer Kevin Evans to win the bronze medal for the men’s compound open.
Andre Shelby shot against teammate and 2012 Paralympic silver medalist Matt Stutzman for the gold. Stutzman’s earlier event record gave him the No. 1 seed, but Shelby shot a perfect finish to take the gold medal and the championship. Stutzman earned silver. Shelby and Stutzman earned two Paralympic slots for the U.S. compound open men.
4. They earned four Paralympic quota slots
With two golds and two silvers in their eight-medal count, the U.S. archery team earned four qualifying slots for Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
5. Team USA earned its largest Parapan Am medal-count ever.
Team USA participated in 14 sports and won 135 medals, earning a third-place finish behind Brazil and Canada. That’s the most medals ever won by Team USA at a Parapan American Games.
6. Team USA wasn’t the only team to boast record-breaking performances.
At the closing ceremony, athletes celebrated breaking 10 world, 70 Americas and 239 Games records. APC President Jose Luis Campo praised the athletes and looked ahead to next year’s Paralympic Games:
“Your record-breaking performances speak for themselves. You are getting faster, stronger and more agile by the day. Your future is extremely bright, and all roads now lead to Rio 2016 and South America’s first Paralympic Games.”
The Parapan and Pan American Games are held every four years during the year preceding the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The next Parapan American Games will be in Lima, Peru, in 2018.