Swimmers, cyclists and track hopefuls will convene in Minneapolis next June to determine who gets to represent the United States at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“The paralympic movement in the United States has had a tremendous momentum behind it in the past year, and we look forward to this being the biggest celebration” of U.S. paralympic athletes ever hosted, said U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) paralympics chief Julie Dussliere.
The USOPC made the announcement Tuesday at the Graduate Hotel on the University of Minnesota campus, accompanied by three athletes including hometown swimmer Mallory Weggemann.
Weggemann, a former U student who lives in Eagan, said she can’t wait to show off Minneapolis to her Olympic teammates. She is a two-time paralympian who discovered the team trials at the U’s aquatic center in 2008 just months after surgery left her partly paralyzed. Within 48 hours, she said, she was back in the water and training to realize her own Olympic dreams.
After Tuesday’s news conference, journalists followed Weggemann, who cannot use her legs, to the pool for a swimming demo.
Weggemann was joined for the announcement by two other contenders: Lex Gillette, a blind paralympic long jumper and four-time silver medalist from Raleigh, N.C., and Clara Brown, a cycling hopeful from Falmouth, Maine.
In her debut last month in the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, Brown collected three gold medals and one bronze. A competitive gymnast before a freak spinal cord injury in 2008, she has participated in numerous international competitions — but never the Paralympics.
The event, said Melvin Tennant, Meet Minneapolis president and CEO, will “launch us into the Olympic movement.”
The team trials will draw 400 athletes for three days of competition. The venues include the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center at the U and McKnight Stadium at Breck School, and cycling trials will be held on West River Parkway in downtown Minneapolis.
“I promise you that you are going to have a huge treat next summer,” Gillette said.
Weggemann said spectators will enjoy the events because the U.S. is “very dominant” in the three sports, and fans will “get to come out and experience the [paralympic] movement at such a high level.”
The competition will culminate in a celebration on June 28, when rosters for all three sports for the Tokyo games will be announced. Up to 4,250 athletes from 160 countries will compete in Japan from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
This will be only the second time the trials have featured three sports concurrently. Organizers said Minneapolis was chosen for its sports venues, accommodations, accessibility and transportation, among other factors.
The Twin Cities have played host to numerous major athletic events in recent years, ranging from Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 2014 to the 2018 Super Bowl and the Final Four earlier this year, as well as the X Games in multiple summers.
“I cannot tell you how honored we are to host the trials in our city,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
The event is not expected to cost Minneapolis anything, Frey said. The city convention bureau’s sports arm, which receives city funds, is acting as the local organizing committee.
Frey, an athlete himself who participated in the Pan Am games in 2007 and the Olympic trials as a runner, said there was “an extra-special tingle” when competing on behalf of your entire country. He pledged to do everything possible to make the event run smoothly.
“We’re going to be there for our athletes as they aim to compete for the United States of America,” he said.