RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Hugh Freund of South Freeport and his United States teammates saved their best for last on the final day of the Sonar sailing competition at the Rio Paralympics on Saturday.
The trio won the 11th and final race — their only victory of the games — in 45 minutes, 10 seconds, to secure the silver medal in the three-person keelboat category.
It was the first Paralympics medal for Freund, Rick Doerr of Clifton, New Jersey, and Brad Kendell of Tampa, Florida.
The Australian team of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris dominated the weeklong competition en route to winning the gold medal. Team Canada, made up of Paul Tingley, Logan Campbell and Scott Lutes, took home the bronze.
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Several teams were in the running for the podium on Saturday, but Team USA refused to allow its medal opportunity to slip away.
“Rick, Brad, and Hugh sailed a great series and earned their silver medal today by racing smart and fast in the final race, on a difficult course and under pressure,” said Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing and Team Leader for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “They’ve worked incredibly hard as a team over the years and deserve this result.”
Doerr, Kendell and Freund were the reigning Para Sailing World Champions. Doerr had reached the Paralympics once previously, in 2008, when his team finished eighth.
“We came into today in a similar position as we had at the World Championship earlier this year, with everything to play for on the final day,” Freund said. “We really sailed the way the three of us know how to sail this boat.”
Kendell said that it was hard to put into words what this means for the three tight-knit athletes.
“2016 has been unbelievable, and this is the year we’ve worked so hard for. Coming in as world champions, you don’t want to let it get inside your head, but you know at least that you have a chance to medal.”
Team members praised coach Mike Ingham.
“We had talent on our team, but Mike figured out how to make it all work,” said Freund. “If you look at our trajectory, it’s a huge testament to his ability as a coach to get the most out of people.”
Doerr, 56, is a surgeon who was injured in a 1992 car accident that left him wheelchair-bound. He teamed up with Kendell and Freund for a run at London 2012, but did not qualify.
Kendell, 35, comes from a family of professional sailors. A 2003 plane crash that claimed the lives of his father and a friend necessitated the amputation of both of Kendell’s legs above the knee. Kendell also sustained significant burns across his body.
Freund, 28, is a lifelong sailor who, during a 2007 ski trip, discovered a problem with his leg that eventually led to diagnosis of an aggressive form of bone cancer.
His right foot was amputated during his freshman year at Roger Williams University.
The American Sonar team has won five medals at Sailing World Cup Miami, North America’s premier Olympic and Paralympic classes regatta, since joining forces. In 2015, Doerr, Kendell and Freund won the Sunbrella Golden Torch Award in Miami, given to the top-performing American boat at the event. They were the first Paralympic-class athletes to gain this distinction in the 26-year history of the event.