Rio 2016 Paralympics storylines with 2 years to go
In two years, the 2016 Paralympics will open in Rio de Janeiro, including some 4,350 athletes from 160 nations in 22 sports.
The Rio Paralympics will run from Sept. 7-18, beginning 17 days after the Olympics finish.
In 2012, the U.S. finished fourth with 98 total medals. China won nearly twice as many medals as any other nation with 231, leading the medal table for a third straight Games. The U.S. last won the most medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games, so perhaps a return to the Western Hemisphere will provide a boost.
NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Rio 2016 Paralympics. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.
Here are five athletes to watch going forward:
Jessica Long, Swimming: Not only does the most decorated Olympian of all time hail from Baltimore, so does the most decorated active U.S. Paralympian. Long is a 17-time Paralympic medalist. She won her first three Paralympic golds at the 2004 Athens Games, when she was 12. She holds 10 world records, the latest coming in June.
Tatyana McFadden, Track and Field: McFadden, 25, has won 10 medals over the last three Paralympics. She added her first Winter Paralympic medal in Sochi. In 2013, McFadden became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single International Paralympic Committee Track and Field World Championships. She also became the first person, able-bodied or Paralympic-eligible, to sweep the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathons in the same year.
Alan Oliveira, Track and Field: He is best known for beating Oscar Pistorius at the London Paralympics, but Oliveira’s fame will reach another level as one the host nation’s biggest stars in two years. Oliveira, 22, won 100m, 200m and 400m gold at the 2013 World Championships and broke his record for the fastest 100m ever run by a double amputee two months ago (10.57 seconds).
Melissa Stockwell, Triathlon: Stockwell swam at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics as the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA. The first lieutenant and first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in active combat, Stockwell then switched to paratriathlon. She is a three-time World champion and will become a mom in the fall. Paratriathlon makes its debut on the Paralympic program in 2016.
Alex Zanardi, Cycling: The Italian former open-wheel racing champion who lost his legs in a September 2001 crash won three hand cycling medals in his Paralympic debut in 2012 at age 45. He wrapped up another three-medal haul at the World Championships in Greenville, S.C., last week.