Penn State's Frederick cherishes opportunity to compete in Paralympics

Anna Pitingolo
September 12, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Three weeks ago, Emily Frederick was moving in for her freshman year at Penn State, much like the rest of her peers in the class of 2020.

But halfway through her first week on campus, she got a call that would put her first semester in Happy Valley on hold.

“I was at Penn State the first week and then I got a call that Wednesday from one of the heads of the U.S. Paralympic Committee and they said I was going to Rio,” said Frederick, a Gadsden, Alabama, native.

Frederick is one of two Penn Staters competing at the Paralympics. Cyclist Shawn Morelli, a 1998 graduate, won the United States’ first 2016 gold medal Sept. 8 in the 3,000-meter C4 individual pursuit.

Frederick, who has dwarfism, did not initially qualify for the games in shot put, but made the United States roster after the Russian delegation was banned from the Paralympics for a state-sponsored doping program, making spots available.

“I had kind of caught wind of it all that day that I might be called up, but hadn’t received any confirmation so it was kind of iffy and I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Frederick said. “So then, when I finally got the call, it was more like I was relieved in a sense.”

It was a whirlwind of a week after that Wednesday phone call, and by the following weekend, Frederick was on her way to Brazil to get prepared and acclimated before the games started on Sept. 7.

“Everything had to change really fast, I had to drop two classes and do all this other stuff before leaving for Rio on Sunday,” Frederick said. “And then since I’ve been here, it’s been great getting to be around the village and see all these other Paralympic athletes. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Despite the quick turnaround, Frederick was still feeling the support from those back at Penn State. Teri Jordan, the director of the Penn State Ability Athletics program and Frederick’s coach in Happy Valley, also was in Rio to help her prepare and cheer her on.

“It’s an awesome honor to have any athlete make the Olympic or Paralympic Games,” Jordan said.

Said Frederick: “I was only at Penn State a week and the support was pretty big already. Then, from home the support has always been there so it’s been really nice to still have that and to still get texts and calls from them.”

Frederick competed on Sunday evening in front of a lively Brazilian crowd at the Olympic Stadium. Filling most of the venue’s lower bowl, the crowd was constantly on its feet, cheering.

A kinesiology student, Frederick finished ninth in the women’s shot put – F40 competition Sunday night in Rio.

“It was crazy to hear them cheering so loud. It didn’t bother me or impact me much, but during each of my throws, it was pretty insane,” Frederick said.

While competing on the global stage is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, the Paralympics marked another landmark for Frederick as well. Before Rio, Frederick had never competed against other athletes similar to her.

“I’ve never competed against other people in my classification before, so this is the first competition I’ve ever had outside of my class,” Frederick said. “It was pretty cool because all these people have the same thing, and I was finally able to compete against somebody like me.”

Frederick is done competing in Rio and she’s heading back to Penn State on Monday night to pick up where she left off in August, bringing along the memories she made in Rio.

“It’s been so crazy, being here, walking in [to the stadium], having everyone chanting U-S-A,” she said. “It was one of the best feelings in the world.”

Last Updated September 14, 2016