2021 Paralympics: Women lead Team USA in Tokyo

The US women's goalball team in conversation during the opening day of competition at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics
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The United States finished day one of the Tokyo Paralympics with two medals, both earned by women.

Cyclist Shawn Morelli earns Team USA’s first medal of Tokyo Paralympics

The U.S. team’s first medal of the day came in track cycling. Competing in her second Paralympics, Shawn Morelli claimed silver in the women’s C4 3000m individual pursuit. Morelli entered Tokyo as the defending Paralympic champion in this event, but was defeated by Australia’s Emily Petricola in the head-to-head final. Petricola set a world record (3:38.961) in qualifying and then lapped Morelli in the final (and thus didn’t record a final time). Canadian Keely Shaw claimed bronze.

The silver medal marks Morelli’s third career medal. “This feels great after the journey we’ve had after the past year and a half during the pandemic,” she said after the race. “I give credit to my coaches because it was hard at times trying to keep focused when you didn’t know if the Games were even going to happen.”

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Morelli, 45, is one of more than 20 athletes on the 2021 U.S. Paralympic roster who served in the military. She was serving in Afghanistan in 2007 when a bomb blast left her with brain trauma, neck and nerve damage, vision loss, and limited movement on the right side of her body. She began cycling as part of her rehab and entered her first competition in 2010.

Swimmer Elizabeth Marks wins Paralympic silver

The U.S. team’s second medal of the day came from Elizabeth Marks, who won silver in the women’s S6 50m freestyle. Ukraine filled out the other spots on the podium with Yelyzaveta Mereshko claiming gold and Anna Hontar earning the bronze.

Marks, a U.S. Army sergeant, is one of three active duty military members on the 2021 U.S. Paralympic team.

U.S. women’s goalball team opens with win against Brazil

Goalball, a sport for athletes who are visually impaired, is played using a ball with bells so that its position can be tracked via sound.

The U.S. women are the most successful team in goalball history, having claimed six Paralympic and eight world championship medals in the sport.

The Americans opened competition in Tokyo with a 6-4 win over Brazil. Amanda Dennis – who is competing in her third Paralympics in Tokyo – led the U.S. team with three goals (two from the field, one penalty shot).

Other members of the 2021 U.S. roster include: Asya Miller, Eliana Mason, Lisa Czechowski, Marybai Huking, and Mindy Cook.

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U.S. falls to the Netherlands in wheelchair basketball opener

The U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team entered Tokyo as the defending Paralympic champion, but faced a tough test in its opening group play game from the Netherlands, the reigning world champion.

The Dutch prevailed, winning 68-58, with two players combining to score 48 of those points: Mariska Beijer (28) and Bo Kramer (20).

U.S. scoring was led by Lindsey Zurbrugg (20), Rose Hollermann (14) and Courtney Ryan (14).

Up next for both teams: the U.S. takes on Spain, while the Netherlands faces off against China. The top four teams in each group at the end of pool play progress to the quarterfinal round.

RELATED: Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic Preview

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC


How to watch the Tokyo Paralympics

NBC will provide over 1,200 hours of Paralympic coverage. Here are some highlights:

  • A full Paralympic TV schedule (which includes an overview of coverage on NBC, NBCSN and Olympic Channel) can be found here.
  • Events can also be livestreamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. More info is available here.