Inclusion and Achievement: The U.S. Paralympic Trials at the New York City Marathon
The upcoming New York City Marathon on November 5th holds much significance beyond being one of the world’s most prestigious running events. This year, the marathon will serve as the U.S. Paralympic Trials, where up to four wheelchair racers will have the opportunity to secure their spots on the team for the 2024 Paris Games. This approach sets a remarkable precedent, as these athletes will be the first across all sports to make their Paralympic team at a marathon event. The stakes are high, with only the top two Americans per gender qualifying, provided they also meet specific time requirements and rank within the top 10 (women) or top 20 (men) globally.
A Champion’s Journey: Susannah Scaroni
Among the contenders for the U.S. Paralympic team is Susannah Scaroni, a 32-year-old wheelchair racer whose remarkable journey has captivated the world. Scaroni began racing major marathons in 2011, consistently achieving commendable second- and third-place finishes. However, it was her triumph on the track at the Tokyo Paralympics, winning gold in the 5000m event, that catapulted her to a new level of recognition. In a cruel twist of fate, Scaroni’s celebration was short-lived as she suffered a severe injury in a collision with a car while training in Illinois. The injury led to fractured vertebrae and forced Scaroni to sit out the entire fall 2021 major marathon season.
Resilience and Triumph
Determined to rise above her setback, Scaroni made a triumphant return in 2022, defying the odds and reclaiming her place among the world’s best. She secured her first major title in Chicago and followed it with victories in New York City and Boston, surpassing Swiss athlete Manuela Schär to become the world’s top-ranked wheelchair racer. Scaroni’s success is not only a testament to her exceptional talent and perseverance but also a reminder of the extraordinary feats humans can achieve.
The Unforeseen Path to Victory
Scaroni’s victories in New York City and Tokyo shared a common thread: the element of surprise. In both instances, Scaroni’s own disbelief echoed the sentiments of spectators and competitors alike. Reflecting on her course record in New York City, Scaroni admitted, “I fully did not expect what happened to happen.” This genuine shock reveals the inner workings of an athlete’s mind, constantly striving for success while simultaneously recognizing the unpredictable nature of competition. Such vulnerability and humility only add depth to Scaroni’s narrative, earning her admiration from fans and fellow athletes.
A Contest for the Remaining Spots
While Scaroni emerges as the clear favorite for one of the U.S. Paralympic team spots, the competition remains fierce for the second spot. Tatyana McFadden, a record-breaking 24-time World Marathon Major winner, presents an imposing challenge. Despite a recent victory in Chicago and a runner-up finish to Scaroni in the same race, McFadden found herself outside the top two Americans in both the New York City and London marathons. Yen Hoang claimed the title of the second-best American in New York City, while Jenna Fesemyer achieved that distinction in London.
On the men’s side, Daniel Romanchuk stands out as an eight-time major winner and consistent top performer among Americans in marathon majors. Only surpassed by Swiss athlete Marcel Hug, Romanchuk is widely expected to finish as the top American in the New York City Marathon. Aaron Pike, a six-time Paralympian with experience in both Summer and Winter Games, and Evan Correll, vying for his first Paralympics, have traded second-place finishes among Americans in recent marathons. However, it’s worth noting that Correll has not yet met the Paralympic qualifying standard time.
A Close Race
Aaron Pike believes that Daniel Romanchuk’s climbing abilities give him an edge in the upcoming marathon. Pike wrote, “Daniel will be the top [American] finisher. He’s always been the best climber in the world, and the NYC Marathon has the most elevation gain of any marathon major by far.” Pike acknowledges that the contest between Evan Correll and himself may be closely fought, emphasizing Correll’s climbing skills and his exceptional performance in New York City.
Expanding Opportunities for Paralympic Selection
While the New York City Marathon will undoubtedly determine two athletes‘ selection for the U.S. Paralympic team in the marathon event, it is important to note that more opportunities will arise at the track and field trials in July. These trials will offer another chance for athletes across various disciplines to secure their places for the 2024 Paris Games. The inclusion of multiple avenues for Paralympic selection ensures that the most deserving athletes are given the chance to represent their country on the grandest stage of international sports.
The U.S. Paralympic Trials at the New York City Marathon shine a spotlight on the remarkable journeys and achievements of para-athletes across the country. Susannah Scaroni’s inspiring comeback and the fierce competition among contenders for the remaining spots exemplify the resilience and determination that embody the spirit of the Paralympic Games. As these athletes pave their way to Paris 2024, their stories serve as a reminder of the power of sport to unite, empower, and transcend perceived limitations. The New York City Marathon will witness history in the making as disabled athletes claim their place on the U.S. Paralympic team, embodying the spirit of inclusivity and inspiring generations to come.
<< photo by Andrea Piacquadio >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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