By Janee Law
Two weeks ago, as he looked forward to running in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, East Northport’s Michael Brannigan said he was excited to wear the letters U.S.A. across his chest.
On Tuesday, he did just that. And he also accomplished another dream in the process. Brannigan, a Northport High School grad, won the gold medal in the 1,500-meter race with atime of 3:51.73.
Brannigan, 19, who is autistic, competed in the T20 category for athletes with intellectual impairments.
He was pitted against opponents Luis Arturo Paiva, of Venezuela; Rafal Korc and Daniel Pek, both of Poland; Cristiano Pereira, of Portugal; Peyman Nasiri Bazanjani, of Iran; Mohamed Hersi, of Denmark; Pavlo Voluikevych, of Ukraine; and Steve Morris, of Great Britain.
Brannigan led the pack through most of the race.
On the final lap, Brannigan picked up his pace, putting himself firmly ahead of Nasiri Bazanjani by five seconds. Pek won silver with 3:56.17 time, and Nasiri Bazanjani won bronze with a time of 3:56.24.
This was Brannigan’s first time competing in the Paralympic games, and his first gold medal.