“Hopes for Team USA go way beyond medal expectations”
Four years ago in PyeongChang, Team USA dominated the Paralympic Winter Games. They topped the medal table with 13 gold, 15 silver and eight bronze for their best tally since Salt Lake City in 2002 – when they collected 10 gold – and a big improvement over at Sochi 2014 when they finished in eighth place with just two gold medals.
A 67-member team heads to Beijing with 39 of them returning Paralympians.
“We have a great mix of veteran leadership and rising stars on this team,” said Chef de Mission Julie Dussliere. “Each athlete, medalist or not, makes a valuable contribution to the team.
“Our hopes for Team USA go far beyond medal expectations. The top priority remains ensuring that USA’s Paralympic athletes have the support they need on all fronts – both mentally and physically – to perform at their best while living their dreams.
The most successful American athlete at PyeongChang 2018 was Nordic skier Oksana Masters, who won two gold, two silver and one bronze. She is competing in Beijing after winning two more titles last summer at Tokyo 2020 in para-cycling.
Her biggest rival will be compatriot and close friend Kendall Gretsch, who also won two gold medals four years ago (6km and 12km sitting) and paratriathlon last summer.
“Kendall and Oksana are incredible athletes on and off the playing field,” Dussliere said.
“It’s amazing to see the level of commitment and mental toughness they both show when it comes to their craft. They will be quite a pair to watch in Beijing.”
Dan Cnossen flies the flag on behalf of the men. At PyeongChang 2018, the former Navy Seal became the first man to represent the United States to win Paralympic gold in biathlon. He also won four silver medals and a bronze in cross-country para-skiing and parabiathlon.
Oksana Masters in action Ⓒ Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Having won para ice hockey gold at four of the last five Paralympic Winter Games, Team USA is the overwhelming favorite to extend their incredible run and be crowned champions for the fourth straight time.
In PyeongChang, they beat Canada 2-1 in overtime. Three-time Paralympic gold medalist Josh Pauls is once again the team captain and the team has 11 players who know what it’s like to win at the Games.
The United States was drawn in Group A and will face Canada, the Russian Paralympic Committee and the Republic of Korea.
“The USA Sledge Hockey Team is an extremely talented group and after years of preparation, they are ready to defend their historic journey on the biggest stage in the world. We look forward to cheering them on,” Dussliere said.
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Three-time World Para-Nordic Skiing Championship medalist Sydney Peterson and new para-snowboard world champion Zach Miller make their Games debuts.
Standing skier Petersen was added to the US team just three weeks before the start of the Games to give the US 15 Nordic athletes. The 19-year-old won two silver medals and a bronze at the World Championships in January.
Snowboarder Miller, who has cerebral palsy, won the SB-LL2 category in the double bench slalom in Lillehammer last month.
“They are just a few of the exciting newcomers who will be taking the stage,” Dussliere said.
Seven-time Paralympic alpine skiing medalist Laurie Stephens arrives in Beijing as world champion after winning the sitting giant slalom in Lillehammer aged 37.
Stephens, who suffers from spina bifida, was a double gold medalist at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Games in downhill and super-G.
Andrew Kurka, the 30-year-old Alaskan, is the defending men’s downhill sitting champion and super-G silver medallist. He participates in four events.
At the January Worlds, the United States won eight Para Snowboard medals (three gold, three silver and two bronze). Four years ago, they won an all-time high of 13 in PyeongChang (five gold, five silver and three bronze).
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The wheelchair curling team has never won a medal.
“We are extremely proud of the wheelchair curling team’s accomplishments and their journey towards qualifying for the 2022 Games. They are talented, resilient and determined to make history in Beijing,” said Dussliere.