Five Athletes To Watch At The Parapan American Games
by Luke Hanlon
Since 1999, elite Para athletes from across the Americas have gathered every four years for the Parapan American Games. This year’s edition kicks off Nov. 17 in Santiago, Chile, with the track and field competition set for Nov. 21-25.
An expected 2,200 athletes from 33 countries will be competing in Santiago during the 10-day competition. Among those 2,200 athletes will be 240 Americans, with 60 of them competing in track and field.
Here are some track and field competitors to keep an eye on during the Parapan Ams.
Correll has been on a steady upward trajectory since he finished fourth in the men’s wheelchair division at the 2022 New York City Marathon. The Waukee, Iowa, native went on to win the first NCAA 100-meter wheelchair national title at the Drake Relays in April while competing for the University of Illinois.
Now a junior at Illinois, Correll is coming off a sixth-place finish at this year’s NYC Marathon earlier this month, a performance that nearly secured him a spot on the 2024 U.S. Paralympic Team. The top two Americans in the division earned berths to the Paralympic Games Paris 2024, and Correll finished eight seconds behind Aaron Pike for the second spot.
Correll will get plenty of opportunities to impress in Santiago, as he’s competing in the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter T54 races. Fellow wheelchair racers Phillip Croft and Miguel Jimenez-Vergara are the only other Americans racing in five events at the Parapan Ams.
Hatz is one of the 16 members of the U.S. track and field roster who also competed at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. During her Paralympic debut, Hatz, who was born without a fibula in her right leg and competes using a prosthetic, took fifth in the long jump and sixth in the 100 and 200 T64 events.
The Lakewood, Colorado, native, who turned 23 in October, is also one of the 14 American athletes traveling to Santiago who also competed at the World Para Athletics Championships this July in Paris. Hatz improved on her long jump result from Tokyo and climbed up to fourth place, while also finishing seventh in the 100.
In Santiago, Hatz has the same event list as in Tokyo two years ago: the 100, 200 and long jump.
Justin Phongsavanh is no stranger to the international stage. In 2019, he won the men’s javelin F54 at the Parapan Ams in Lima, Peru, before finishing in fourth in the same event at the world championships that November in Dubai, UAE. Two years later, the Des Moines, Iowa, native added to his medal collection with a Paralympic bronze medal in the javelin.
Despite not competing in Paris earlier this year, Phongsavanh, 26, is one of the most experienced members on the U.S. track and field roster and will be looking to defend his Parapan Ams title in the javelin.
Salinaro already has a Paralympic appearance under her belt, but it wasn’t on the track. The Massapequa, New York, native made history twice in Tokyo, as she became the first female athlete to represent the United States in taekwondo at the Paralympics and the first athlete with cerebral palsy to compete in the sport at the Paralympics.
Unfortunately for Salinaro, the Paris Games won’t host K43 taekwondo athletes, so she was left with no way to continue her quest for a Paralympic medal.
Instead of sparring with opponents, she now races against them. Salinaro picked up track and field in 2022, and now the 25-year-old is set to run in the 100 and 200 T35 events at the Parapan Ams, which will be her first international meet.
While U.S. Paralympic Track & Field guidelines state that athletes who medaled at the world championships are not eligible to participate in the Parapan Ams, there are discretionary spots available for those athletes for developmental purposes.
Tanner Wright — who won his first worlds medal when he earned silver in the men’s 400 T46 — joins Josh Cinnamo (silver in the men’s shot put F46) as the two Americans who medaled in Paris that will be in Santiago.
The Fort Worth, Texas, native, who was born with an underdeveloped left arm, finished second in the long jump F46 at the 2019 Parapan Ams. Since he’s already proven himself on the world stage in the 400 this year, Wright will be shortening things up and racing the 100 T47 in Santiago.
Luke Hanlon is a sportswriter and editor based in Minneapolis. He is a freelance contributor to usparatf.org courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.