RIO DE JANEIRO — One day after winning a silver medal at the Paralympic games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Caro resident Scot Severn was already thinking about the 2020 Games.
“I was in the gym today, actually,” Severn told The Advertiser on Thursday from Rio, the day after he took second place in the shot put (F53 division). “(Winning silver) put a little bitter taste in my mouth, and gave me a little more motivation and drive to try and go get it in another four years.”
In his third Paralympics, Severn had his best finish.
The 48-year-old did not medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, and took bronze four years ago in London. The Paralympic Games are held each summer after the Summer Olympics. Athletes use the same facilities, and stay at the Olympic Village.
Even though finishing second in the world is an amazing honor, Severn was still having trouble coping with the three centimeters that came between his toss — on his final effort — and the winning throw. Severn’s last throw traveled 8.41 meters, just shy of the winning distance of 8.44 meters, that was heaved by Greece’s Che Jon Fernandes.
“If you would have asked me (before the competition) if an 8.41 meter throw would have been good enough for gold, I would have said ‘hell yeah,’” Severn said. “I really think I was happier to win the bronze than to win the silver (Wednesday). I thought I had him on that last throw, I tried to leave it all on the field but it wasn’t enough.”
Severn and Fernandes have a history. Severn beat him at the London Paralympics and at the 2013 world championships. Fernandes won gold at last year’s world championships, where Severn competed despite having a broken leg.
Even though the next Paralympic Games, to be held in Tokyo, is four years away, Severn is looking towards a much sooner rematch with his Greek rival.
“We have world championships next year in London, so hopefully I’ll have his number then,” Severn said.
Severn grew up in Unionville, where he was a 1986 graduate of Unionville-Sebewaing High School. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army Reserves, which set him on course for his destiny as a world-class para-athlete. While on duty at Camp Grayling in August, 1989, Severn was struck by lightning. The jolt flung him 40 feet, leaving the 6-foot-2 serviceman with severe internal and external injuries. The most significant of which was paralyzation from the waist down.
Severn didn’t play sports in high school, and didn’t begin participating in wheelchair athletics until his mid-30s. His first love was wheelchair rugby, and gradually shifted that passion to track and field throw events. At the London Games, he qualified in shot put, discus and javelin.
Even though 48 years of age is considered older in the world of sports, Severn has talked about competing in the Paralympics in 2020 — and even 2024 if his body holds up.
“The one thing about field throwers is you can do it when you’re older,” Severn said. “As long as you keep yourself in shape and keep practicing.”
Severn is married to wife, Brenda Severn, and the couple has three kids — each of whom attends Caro High School. Nicole is a senior, and is on the Tigers’ bowling and tennis teams. Sons Kyle and Colton, a sophomore and freshman respectively, are current members of the Caro junior varsity football team.
Severn’s family did not make it down to Rio.
“Not with school starting and everything,” Severn said. “The boys are both in football and my daughter has all kinds of stuff going on, she’s doing college expectations now and was heading to Michigan State (University) recently for a visit.”
The Rio Paralympics, which began Sept. 7 and ends Sunday, is the first Games in South America. Rio, Brazil’s second-largest city, had been under scrutiny prior, and during, the Summer Olympics, which were held from Aug. 5 through Aug. 21. Crime in the city, and its sanitary conditions were among the most critical detriments to Rio.
“It’s a little disappointing compared to the last two (Paralympic Games),” Severn said. “Beijing was a pretty big show, and they put a lot of money into it. I never really expected anything to rival that, but London was pretty decent. This one had a little more subdued feel to it, there wasn’t much going on. It was more like just another event.”
And it showed in the stands at Brazil’s Olympic Stadium.
“The attendance is way down, in China they just packed the stadium every day,” Severn said.
Severn is one of 15 Michigan athletes competing at the Rio Games.
John Schneider is sports editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org