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Susannah Scaroni celebrates at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Saturday, Aug. 28. (Mark Reis, USOPC)
Susannah Scaroni celebrates at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Saturday, Aug. 28. (Mark Reis, USOPC)

Scaroni takes gold, McFadden bronze in 5,000-meter race at Tokyo Paralympics

Susannah Scaroni, who trains at the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services At Illinois, won the gold medal in the women’s T53/54 5,000-meter race Saturday morning at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Scaroni finished in 10:52.57, a new Paralympic record. The old record, 11:47.37, was set by her teammate, Tatyana McFadden, in 2016. McFadden, meanwhile, earned bronze in the race for her 18th Paralympic medal and Team USA’s first double podium in track and field in Tokyo. 

“I feel so blessed honestly. My strength is going as hard as I can for a long time and that never happened at the Paralympics and I have no experience doing anything else,” she said.

Scaroni said she looked back at the field with seven laps to go, expecting the pack to be at her heels, but there was no one behind her.

“I’ve been telling myself all summer that I can’t do what I would love to do and honesty I pulled hard like I normally do, I was going to move out for the next person to go through but nobody was there. I’m really grateful and surprised.”

Her teammate, McFadden, closed the gap to earn the bronze medal but wasn’t able to catch up to the first place spot. Scaroni said she had beaten McFadden before in races, but never with such high stakes on the line.

“You’re never at the Paralympics and that’s when everyone brings out what they have. I’m so proud of her, we know what each other’s strengths are. She went with her strength which, right now, is sprinting. So, to close the distance of the seven-lap gap she relied on her strengths like I did for mine,” Scaroni said.

On Sunday, Scaroni won the bronze medal in the women’s T54 800-meter race. Scaroni finished in 1:44.43, just behind her teammate McFadden who finished in 1:43.16. Both women set season records for themselves.

“This is a big improvement for me for the (800-meter), so I am really proud of how my training over the last five years and the learning I have gone through has paid off,” she said. ““It’s a huge honor and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to race against these strong women.”

Find out more about Susannah in our AHS podcast, A Few Minutes With.

McFadden later added a gold in the 4x100 mixed relay. In doing so, Team USA made history, becoming the first team to win the event in its Paralympic debut.

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