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The world has moved on from Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. The must-see television spectacle that was the 2016 Rio Olympics is in our collective patriotic rear view mirrors. And yet, the Olympics aren’t over, not for thousands of athletes down in Rio competing in the Paralympic Games.
The 2016 Paralympic Games feature 23 different sports, from archery to cycling to sitting volleyball to judo to wheelchair basketball, tennis, fencing and, yes, rugby. The Games include 534 unique events over 11 days, starting today, with participants from 161 countries down in Brazil for the Rio Games. A total of 4,167 athletes slated to compete.
Per TeamUSA.org, there are 286 Americans competing in the Paralympic Games this year, with 18 coming from hometowns in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. More locally, there aren’t too many competitors down in Rio, with just one — Track & Field racer James Senbeta — calling Philly home.
Senbeta, who now resides in Savoy, Illinois with several other Paralympic competitors, is an alum of Penn Wood High School in Landsdowne. He studied at the University of Illinois from 2011 to 2014, graduating with a degree in Agriculture and Biological Engineering.
Senbeta will be competing in three events in Rio: the Men’s 5000m T53/54 on Sunday September 11, the Men’s 800m T54 on Thursday September 15, and the Men’s Marathon T52/53/54 on Sunday, September 18. The T54 classification under which Senbeta competes is for those athletes with “limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement.”
On his Team USA page, Senbeta boasts a course record at the 2014 New Balance Falmouth Road Race and a fifth place finish in the 2013 LA marathon among his career highlights.
A self-proclaimed Philly sports fan, Senbeta wrote a bit for Bleacher Report in the late Aughts, and called Randall Cunningham his first sports hero.
Another local competitor in Rio is swimmer Michelle Konkoly, who was born in Bryn Mawr and calls Eagleville, Pa. home.
Konkoly, who graduated from Georgetown with a degree in Biology in 2014 after attending Methacton HS in Eagleville, is competing in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle swimming events in Rio. She competes under the S9 and SB8 classifications, which “athletes in this sport class, for example, swim with joint restrictions in one leg or with double below-the-knee amputations.” The 100m freestyle heats and finals are on Monday, September 12, while the 50 meter freestyle heats and finals are on Tuesday, September 13. She is also slated to race in two relays.
Konkoly, who now lives and trains in Naples, Florida, is the world record holder in the 50m free and won silver in the 50m and 100m free at the 2015 World Championships. An able-bodied swimmer in high school, Konkoly fell out a five-story window of a dorm at Georgetown, injuring her spine, while also sustaining a broken foot and punctured lung.
Three other athletes are from the Philly area, including Noga Nir-Kistler of Allentown, Margaret McIntosh of Reading and Andrew Jenks of Wilmington, Delaware.
Nir-Kistler is a three-time Paralympian who won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke in London in 2012. She competes in the 50m freestyle, the 100m freestyle, the 100m breaststroke and the 50 meter butterfly under the S6 and SB5 classification, which includes, “swimmers with short stature or amputations of both arms, or moderate co-ordination problems on one side of their body, for example.
In 2008 Nir-Kistler competed in Beijing…in table tennis. In 2010 she switched to swimming, and two years later medaled in London. Now 37, she developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy in the nerves in her left hand when she was 20. Originally from Israel, she moved to Pennsylvania with her family at 17 and stayed to become a U.S. citizen when her parents moved back two years later.
McIntosh was born in Danville, Pa. and calls Reading home, though she went to high school in Massachusetts and graduated from Cornell in 1976. In 2005, six years after falling off a horse in an equestrian event and breaking her neck that resulted in incomplete quadriplegia, McIntosh got her masters from Villanova. She has done a lot in her life, and now adds Paralympian to the list.
McIntosh has worked over the last 17 years to regain her mobility and competes in para-equestrian dressage as a Grad la competitor.
Jenks went to Brandywine HS in Wilmington and graduated from West Chester University in 2013 with a degree in political science. He got his masters in 2015 from Delaware in political science and international relations and is on pace to get his PhD in 2018. Jenks plays goalball, winning a bronze medal in the 2014 World Championships.
Jenks was born with incomplete achromatopsia, a hereditary congenital retinal condition that includes decreased vision, light sensitivity and partial color blindness.
On his Team USA bio page, Jenks wrote that he lives by the motto: “The world is your oyster so shuck it, put some hot sauce on it, and shoot it.”
Advice to live by, truly.
Here is a list of all the athletes from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware who are representing the United States in Rio this week.
[table id=Paralympics /]