Permanent Para-Nordic skiers continue to progress for Team USA

Drew Shea celebrates after the Para Cross Country Middle Distance competition at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on March 12, 2022 in Beijing.

So when Drew Shea, 24, joined Reiter on the roster for 2022, it provided the Maine resident with an extra boost of motivation and a source of camaraderie.

“I’m glad Drew is with me at these Games — it’s so nice to ski with another athlete standing up because I’m not the only one,” said Reiter, of Manchester, Maine. “Still, the whole team has always been super motivating and watching them just inspires me.”

Shea, a native of Vienna, Va., started skiing to help him recover after his left hand was amputated in an accident when he was 21. After graduating from the University of South Carolina the following year, he moved to Park City, Utah, to coach. He first skied outside the United States at last year’s World Cup in Slovenia and was named to the 2021-22 U.S. Paralympic Nordic Ski Development Team before returning to Bozeman, Montana, to prepare for Beijing.

Having a veteran in Reiter to lean on has proven invaluable in Shea’s rise, he said.

“I learned early on in sports that everyone wants to help each other out,” Shea said. ” You are not alone. I think that’s something Ruslan instilled in me. We would race against each other to try to qualify for the Games, but he would always be there to help me. I think I’ll take this and usher in the younger ones and not be afraid they’ll take my place…but maybe they will.

The dynamic Shea, who eagerly tries to absorb as much information about the sport as possible at all times, was also influenced by six-time Paralympic medalist Dan Cnossen. While Cnossen is a sit-skier, his mentality as a former US Navy SEAL platoon leader drove Shea to become self-motivated and self-disciplined.

“Dan has been a huge mentor to me over the past two years,” Shea said. “I definitely look up to the older group of the US Para-Nordic team, and especially him with his experience and everything he’s done for the sport. It’s an amazing sport and I learned early on that his brain was really, really good for me. He has so much experience here, just talking to him is a real pleasure.

At the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Center in the mountains northwest of Beijing, Shea competed in five events, placing in the top 20 in four of them: open relay (ninth), middle distance biathlon (13th ), sprint biathlon (14th) and middle distance cross country (19th).

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Shea said after her final individual race. “The goal for me was really to get to the Games, so it’s really special for me to be here, let alone compete against the best in the world. I think I can hang my hat on biathlon shooting. I shot very well at the start of the week and the skis were moving later in the week.

Reiter, who was born in Russia with an underdeveloped right arm and was adopted from an orphanage, was very consistent in his second Paralympic Games, finishing in the top 12 in his four individual events, while competing in ninth place. relay open.

” It was hard. I had a rough start, but everything went well in the end,” said Reiter. “Holding on and keeping telling myself keep going and that every race’s finish line will be so good really motivated me.”

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