PyeongChang 2018: Great Paralympic Moments

Team USA leads the medal count

Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Commitee

The U.S. Men’s Sled Hockey Team rallied to beat Canada in overtime in the gold-medal game, giving Team USA 13 gold medals, the most among any nation at PyeongChang.

By Josh Barr

Team USA dominated the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, leading all nations with 13 gold medals and 36 medals in all. It was the second-highest total ever for Team USA at a Winter Paralympics and featured outstanding performances by several athletes, including Oksana Masters (two golds, two silvers, one bronze) and Dan Cnossen (one gold, four silvers, one bronze).

Four years was worth the wait for Andrew Kurka

Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Commitee

Andrew Kurka has always been competitive. He was a six-time Alaska state wrestling champion as a youth before an ATV accident at age 13 left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Alpine skier Andrew Kurka had to wait an extra four years for his first Paralympic race, but he was more than ready when the moment finally arrived.

Having broken his back in a training run at Sochi 2014, Kurka finally had his moment at PyeongChang, where he won gold in the men’s sitting downhill, finishing more than 1.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field.

“I wouldn’t change Sochi. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened throughout my life,” Kurka said. “It’s all a journey and this is my journey to gold.”

The following day, Kurka added the silver medal in the men’s sitting super-G.

Forgetting the pain and winning gold

Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

A three-sport Paralympian, Oksana Masters overcame a fractured elbow to finally win Paralympic gold.

Just 24 hours after it seemed Oksana Masters’ dreams of winning Paralympic gold had been dashed, the multisport athlete and four-time Paralympian delivered a dramatic victory.

Masters, who fractured her right elbow a few weeks before PyeongChang 2018, had reinjured her elbow in the 10km biathlon. She could not finish the race and was carried off the course in pain.

Four days later, however, Masters won gold in the women’s 1km sitting cross-country sprint.

“The sprint hurts really, really bad every time you drive your pole,” Masters said. “But it’s mind over matter, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen today.”

Masters followed that with a second gold in the women’s 5km sitting cross-country event and has won eight Paralympic medals. Her teammates also voted her to be the Closing Ceremony flag bearer at the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

A natural on skis

Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

Kendall Gretsch was correct: Her endurance as a world-class triathlete was a great fit for cross-country skiing.

A competitive triathlete, Kendall Gretsch took up Nordic skiing only after her triathlon classification was not selected for competition when that sport was added at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games. Gretsch thought that her stamina might make her a good fit for the grueling nature of cross-country skiing.

Two years later, Gretsch became the first Team USA athlete to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal in biathlon, finishing first by more than half a minute in the 6km sitting biathlon. She followed that up the next day, adding a second gold in the 12km sitting cross-country.

“Going into the Games I was just hoping to maybe win a medal, so to win two golds was incredible,” Gretsch said. “I still feel pretty new to the sport so I’m trying to take all races as learning experiences. There’s a lot you can learn by practicing and training but on some level, you just have to get into races and do them to get better.”

Down but not out, an incredible victory

Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Commitee

Declan Farmer (pictured above) scored the game-tying and game-winning goals as Team USA beat Canada, 2-1 in overtime, in the gold-medal game.

Trailing by a goal in the final minute of regulation to an opponent that had not allowed a goal in the entire tournament, the U.S. Sled Hockey Team was desperate in the gold-medal game against Canada. But with goalie Steve Cash on the bench for an extra skater, a Canadian shot at the empty net bounced harmlessly off the post.

Given one last chance, Team USA took advantage. Brody Roybal’s centering pass found Declan Farmer in the slot and Farmer scored to tie the game, 1-1, with 37 seconds left in regulation. Farmer then scored his 11th goal of the tournament – tying the record for most goals by a player in a Paralympics – lifting Team USA to a thrilling 2-1 victory and its third consecutive Paralympic gold medal.

“It’s an absolutely unbelievable feeling,” Team USA captain Josh Pauls said. “To win a gold medal with such great guys and fight back the way we did is just something that we’re always going to remember.”

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen breaks through in biathlon

Paralympic athlete Dan Cnossen skiing and pushing his poles into the snow during a biathlon race in the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Photo by Joe Kusumoto/Courtesy U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen said he looks at his daily training plan – conditioning, strength training, stretching, nutrition and more – as his orders to follow.

Hours after Kendall Gretsch became the first American of either gender to win biathlon gold in the Olympics or Paralympics, retired U.S. Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen became the first American man to win gold in biathlon, finishing first in the men’s 7.5km sitting biathlon by more than 10 seconds.

Cnossen said he was so focused on the race that upon reaching the finish line, he did not look at his time or result and it was minutes later that he learned he had won.

“I just focused on what I can do and nothing else matters,” Cnossen said. “I crossed the line and I wasn’t even going to look at the board and I was pleasantly surprised at the end.”

Cnossen also won four silver medals (12.5km biathlon, 15km cross-country, 15km biathlon and 7.5km cross-country) and one bronze (cross-country sprint).