Daniel Cnossen steps into the spotlight

Paralympic champion getting used to added attention 30 Jan 2019
By Louise Wood | For World Para Nordic Skiing

"The attention is not something I am totally comfortable with and so it's taken some getting used to. I still need to work on it and it's a great opportunity though to get a positive message out to kids and the community. So I looked at it like that and tried to embrace more of that role as an ambassador of Paralympic sport as well as cross-country skiing and biathlon."

Daniel Cnossen's life has changed a lot since his Nordic skiing success at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. He took six medals home to the USA including gold in the sitting biathlon sprint as well as four silvers and one bronze making the podium in every race he took part in.

His amazing performance has thrust him into the public eye and brought some new responsibilities.

"It's definitely been a lot more publicity than I'm used to or ever really sought out," said Cnossen. "I competed in the Sochi (2014) Games but didn't have any great result and kind of just ended the Games and went back to training. In this instance after PyeongChang there were many requests for interviews, opportunities to speak in schools in front of kids and this was all new to me."

Great opportunity

As a newly-crowned Paralympic champion the added interest in his achievements is a big adjustment for Cnossen.

"The attention is not something I am totally comfortable with and so it's taken some getting used to," explained Cnossen. "I still need to work on it and it's a great opportunity though to get a positive message out to kids and the community. So I looked at it like that and tried to embrace more of that role as an ambassador of Paralympic sport as well as cross-country skiing and biathlon."

Cnossen had to fit all this around finishing his education at the prestigious Harvard University.

"I was in graduate school while competing in PyeongChang and shortly after I had to go back to class. I had about six more weeks of the semester to get through, final papers and then a big graduation so a lot was happening between the months of March and May of 2018."

"Then I took a nice relaxing summer with some training of course and some travel and spending time with family. I had a great summer and then in August got back to work with a camp in New Zealand."

All that hard work paid off at the opening two rounds of the World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland and Ostersund Sweden. Cnossen won ten out of twelve races and finished on the podium in the other two.

More than medals

However, it is not medals that truly motivate him. It is the chance to test himself and see how far he can push his own limits. He has a very simple goal heading toward World Championships in February.

"My expectation are simply to train as well as I can between now and then and give my best results in each race. That was my mindset in PyeongChang, just take one race at a time and give it all I can on the course, cross the finish line and don't worry about results. There will be a number next to my name but that doesn't really matter. What matters is how hard I can go and how hard I can push myself and how deep I can dig."

Perfect fit

Cnossen lost his legs after stepping on an IED in while serving in the US military. He credits Nordic skiing with helping him get back to the outdoor lifestyle that was so important to him in the past.

"I decided to compete in cross-country and biathlon because of the appeal of biathlon. I was in the US military, I was injured in Afghanistan in 2009 and I spent about 2 years between the initial surgeries and the phase of physical therapy and was introduced to the sport of cross-country skiing and immediately fell in love with the peacefulness and its connection with nature. Then you add on the shooting and that had the connection with my military career so this seemed like both sports would be the perfect fit for me."

Next up for Cnossen is the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Prince George, Canada from 15-24 February.