Skiers Alana Nichols and Stephani Victor finished 1-2 in the women’s giant slalom sitting event.
By Zach Miles
Team USA sent 49 athletes to compete at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, where they won 13 medals (four gold, five silver, four bronze). It was the first Paralympic Games held in Canada since Toronto hosted in 1976. Vancouver 2010 featured some incredible highlights for Team USA, including skier Alana Nichols winning four medals (two gold, one silver, one bronze) and skier Stephani Victor winning three medals.
Alana Nichols was the first U.S. woman to win gold medals in both the summer and winter Paralympic Games.
Para skier Alana Nichols was no stranger to the Paralympics. She earned a gold medal at Beijing 2008 as a member of the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team that defeated Germany 50-38 in the gold-medal game.
Nichols trained as a Para alpine skier following 2008 and dedicated her time to making history.
She won gold medals in the women’s downhill and giant slalom sitting events. Nichols became the first U.S. female Paralympian to win a gold medal in the Summer Games and the Winter Games.
“I feel so fortunate to be the first female American to accomplish this feat,” Nichols said. “It was only a matter of time before the amazing women of Team USA would check this off the list, and when the timing lined up for me to claim it, I felt incredibly special.”
40-year-old Stephani Victor won one gold medals and two silver.
Para skier Stephani Victor was named the 2009 Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee She followed that up – at age 40 – by winning the gold medal in the women’s super combined sitting and silver medals in the women’s slalom and giant slalom, where she finished second to U.S. teammate Alana Nichols in the latter race.
“I’m so excited for my teammate,” Victor said. “She skied an amazing first run and an even better second run. I’m proud to be up there with her and celebrate with her tonight.”
U.S. Army veteran Andy Soule became the first American to medal in a Paralympic biathlon event.
Inspired to give back to his country following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Andy Soule enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan, where he was wounded in an explosion that resulted in a double leg amputation.
Soule took up cross-country skiing at a camp in 2005. Five years later, he competed at Vancouver 2010.
On the opening day of the Paralympics, Soule pushed forward to come from behind and win bronze in the 2.4km pursuit. Not only was he the first American to medal in Vancouver, he also was the first American ever to medal in a Paralympic biathlon event.
“It just felt incredible,” Soule said. “I’ve had World Cup wins and World Cup podiums before, but there’s nothing quite like this – in this atmosphere, in front of the crowd here with everyone watching.”
Goalie Steve Cash did not allow a goal in five games in Vancouver.
The U.S. Sled Hockey Team won all five of its games in Vancouver without allowing a goal, capped by a 2-0 victory over Japan in the gold-medal game.
In the decisive game, Alexi Salamone scored on a backhanded power play shot less than five minutes in. Taylor Lipsett sealed the game for Team USA with a power play goal with less than two minutes remaining.
Head coach Ray Maluta knew that bouncing back from the team’s 2006 bronze medal meant so much to his players.
“These guys have given us so much over the last few years to get to this point,” Maluta said. “They’ve grown as athletes, players and men, and I’m lucky to have been a part of this ride.”
Danelle Umstead was never in the starting gate, but it did not show on the slopes.
Danelle Umstead won the bronze medal in both the women’s downhill and super combined visually impaired, with her husband Rob as her guide.
“I was nervous going into it,” Umstead said. “I just really put my trust in my husband because I had a stress attack at the top… It was really nice to finally finish a slalom and actually get third when I did.”
Eight years later, Umstead appeared on Dancing with the Stars, becoming the first star who was visually impaired to appear on the show.