The U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Swimming, Track & Field and Cycling are taking place in Charlotte over the last weekend in June.
June 30 – July 2, to be exact. These trials are the only chance for Paralympic hopefuls to qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. With over 4,500 athletes expected to attend, this year’s games will be the largest in history.
“Charlotte is a can-do place,” Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioner’s Board Chair Trevor Fuller said at yesterday’s press conference. “We believe in getting things done, we believe in getting it done right and having a great time doing it. So I don’t think this is going to be any different.”
Moreover, the Paralympics are about what people can do whether than what they can’t, regardless of disability.
“That speaks so much to who we are as a community,” Dunlap said. “We’re about what we can do, and so it’s so appropriate that the trials are here in Charlotte, a can-do place. And we’re so excited that athletes like Tucker, like Jill or Paul, who are from our state and in the case of Jill and Paul, from our town … are doing their best to show us what is possible.”
That’s right – three athletes hoping to go the distance are from North Carolina, and two of the three are from Charlotte.
Tucker Dupree is a swimmer and three-time Paralympic medalist from Raleigh who is not only expected to qualify but also to take home a medal in the men’s visually impaired division.
Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy caused Tucker to lose 80% of his central vision in both of his eyes, but hasn’t stopped him from taking home multiple medals and setting both American and world records in swimming. After the last Paralympic Games in London four years ago, he added two bronze medals and a silver to his collection.
The trials will be the first stab at the games for Jill Moore, a college senior studying Industrial Design at the University of Illinois. Because of spina bifida, a defect that arises when vertebrae surrounding the spinal cord don’t form completely causing the lower half of the body to be weak or even paralyzed, she’s spent her life in a wheelchair.
She discovered her love for wheelchair athletics as a child when she joined her parents on a 150-mile bike ride to the beach, during which she rode tandem with her father. Since, she’s participated in wheelchair racing and basketball along with swimming and has set national swimming and track and field records. She’s also competed on multiple National All-Tournament basketball teams. Jill will be looking to compete at this year’s games in the wheelchair races.
Paul Peterson III, a 23-year old from Charlotte, is also aiming for the games for the first time this year. After losing his leg below the knee at 15 in a motorcycle accident, his prosthetist encouraged him to take up running, and it just clicked. He now trains at places like Johnson C. Smith University and UNC Charlotte.
Since, he’s competed in the Desert Challenge Games, where he took 2nd in Long Jump and 3rd in the 100-meter sprint. Peterson had his apartment broken into and his running blades and Olympic medals stolen last year. But despite the obstacles, Peterson is expected to come in strong.
Connect with the 2016 Paralympics Trials
July 2: Meet and Greet with athletes at Romare Bearden Park
July 3: Team announcements will be made for each Team USA sport at Romare Bearden Park