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Paralympians Get Sendoff Before Heading to Tokyo

Half of the 20 University of Illinois-affiliated Paralympians headed to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games made an appearance Monday at the Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services for a ceremonial sendoff.

One set of athletes—who were supposed to compete last year before the pandemic changed everyone’s plans—will leave for Japan tomorrow, said Joey Peters, who along with Adam Bleakney coaches the Illini track and field team.

Peters said he, Tatyana McFadden, Daniel Romanchuk, Kelsey LeFevour and Alexa Halko are the ones headed to Tokyo early to get acclimated to the time change and the oppressive heat. “It is supposed to the be (warmest) Olympics and Paralympics ever,” he said.

For McFadden, it will be her sixth Paralympic Games, and in that time, she’s collected 17 medals, including seven gold. This year’s Games will be the second for Romanchuk, who has also won the New York City Marathon as well as Chicago and Boston among his many victories. Romanchuk credited Illini coaches, teammates and family for his success.

“It’s almost impossible to get here without a support system,” he said, adding that the encouragement from friends and fans is “almost indescribable. I would not be here without it.”

The Illini track and field team is represented by Hannah Dederick; Jenna Fesemyer; Halko, Yen Hoang, Eva Houston, Lefevour, Ray Martin, Chelsea McClammer; McFadden, Amanda McCrory, Aaron Pike, Isaiah Rigo, Romanchuk, Susannah Scaroni and Brian Siemann. Men’s basketball includes three Illini: Brian Bell, Ryan Neiswender, and Steve Serio, while the women’s basketball team has Kaitlyn Eaton and Ali Ibanez.

Additionally, several Illini alums are representing other countries.

Dylan Alcott (men’s tennis)
Kady Dandeneau (women’s basketball)
Patrick Anderson (men’s basketball)
Nik Goncin (men’s basketball)
Edina Mueller (Rowing)
Great Britain 
Helen Freeman (women’s basketball)
Hiroaki Kozai (men’s basketball)

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