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Shawn Morelli wins first U.S. gold medal of Rio Paralympics

2016 U.S. Paralympics Trials Cycling - Day 3

HUNTERSVILLE, NC - JULY 02: Shawn Morelli competes in the WC4 finals of the 2016 U.S. Paralympics Trials Cycling at The Park on July 2, 2016 in Huntersville, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Track cyclist Shawn Morelli claimed the first gold medal for the U.S. at the Rio Paralympics, winning the C4 3000m individual pursuit in her Paralympic debut at age 40 on Thursday.

Morelli, a U.S. Army veteran, easily won by recording a time of 3:59.407 in the final against Australian defending Paralympic champion Susan Powell, who clocked 4:04.794.

Morelli previously broke the world record in March with a time of 3:55.006 at the world championships.

Morelli was seriously injured by an improvised explosive device as an engineer officer deployed in Afghanistan in 2007. She sustained neck and nerve damage, brain trauma and blindness in her left eye.

She started cycling in 2009.

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