Four years ago in PyeongChang, Team USA ruled the roost at the Paralympic Winter Games. They topped the medal charts with 13 golds, 15 silvers and eight bronze for their best tally since Salt Lake City in 2002 – when they collected 10 golds – and a vast improvement from Sochi 2014 when they finished in eighth place with just two gold medals.
A 67-member team travels 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. “Every athlete, whether they medal or not, bring valuable contributions to the team.
“Our hopes for Team USA go far beyond medal expectations. The top priority remains making sure US Paralympic athletes have the support needed on all fronts – both mentally and physically – to perform at their best while living out their dreams.”
The most successful US athlete at PyeongChang 2018 was Nordic skier Oksana Masters, who won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal. She competes in Beijing having collected two more titles last summer at Tokyo 2020 in Para Cycling.
Her biggest rival will be countrywoman and close friend Kendall Gretsch, who also won two golds four years ago (6km and 12km sitting) and the Para Triathlon last summer.
“Kendall and Oksana are amazing athletes both on and off the field of play,” Dussliere said.
“It’s incredible to watch the level of commitment and mental fortitude that they both exhibit when it comes to their craft. They will be quite a duo to keep an eye on in Beijing.”
Dan Cnossen flies the flag on behalf of the men. At PyeongChang 2018, the former navy seal became the first man from representing the USA to win Paralympic Biathlon gold. He also claimed four silvers and a bronze in Para Cross-Country Skiing and Para Biathlon.
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 are red-hot favourites to extend their amazing run and be crowned champions for the fourth consecutive time.
At PyeongChang, they edged out Canada 2-1 in overtime. Three-time Paralympic gold medallist Josh Pauls captains the side again and the squad features 11 players who know what it is like to win at the Games.
USA have been drawn in Group A and face Canada, Russian Paralympic Committee and the Republic of Korea.
“The US sled hockey team is an immensely talented group and after years of preparation they are ready to defend their historical run on the world’s biggest stage. We can’t wait to cheer them on,” Dussliere said.
Ⓒ Getty Images
WATCH OUT FOR
Three-time Para Nordic Skiing World Championship medallist Sydney Peterson and newly crowned Para Snowboard world champion Zach Miller are making their Games debuts.
Standing skier Petersen was added to the US team just three weeks before the start of the Games to give USA 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 dual banked slalom in Lillehammer last month.
“They are just a few of the exciting newcomers set to take the stage,” Dussliere said.
Seven-time Paralympic Alpine Skiing medallist Laurie Stephens arrives in Beijing as a world champion after winning the sitting giant slalom at Lillehammer at the age of 37.
Stephens, who has spina bifida, was a double Paralympic Games gold medallist at Turin 2006 in the downhill and super-G.
Andrew Kurka, the 30-year-old Alaskan, is defending champion in the men’s sitting downhill and silver medallist in the super-G. He competes in four events.
In January’s Worlds, the USA won eight Para Snowboard medals (three golds, three silvers and two bronze). Four years ago they claimed a history-making 13 in PyeongChang (five golds, five silvers and three bronze).
DRAWING A BLANK
The Wheelchair Curling team have never won a medal.
“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Wheelchair Curling team and their run to qualifying for the 2022 Games. They’re talented, resilient, and determined to make history in Beijing,” Dussliere said.