Team USA Ready to Compete at PyeongChang Paralympics March
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games begin with the opening ceremony on March 9 and continue through March 18 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
According to the International Paralympic website, the 2018 Winter Games will feature 670 athletes from 45 countries, roughly a 24 percent increase compared to the 547 athletes who competed in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and a 44 percent increase in women athletes.
Para-athletes will compete in every sport from sled hockey to alpine, Nordic, and cross-country skiing, which has been part of the Paralympics since 1976, to snowboarding and wheelchair curling, to the biathlon. When it comes to ice hockey, the United States Paralympic team—also the 2014 Winter Games Paralympic champions—continues to perform well. The team did not allow a single goal in a shut out on its way to capturing the 2018 Turin Para Ice Hockey International Tournament, which concluded January 27 in Italy. The tournament was the last major international competition before the Winter Games.
Sled hockey goalie Steve Cash, a three-time Paralympic medalist (gold, 2010, 2014; bronze, 2006) has only allowed two goals in ten games of Paralympic play. In six world championships, Cash, who has a transtibial amputation, has collected three golds, two silvers, and a bronze medal, and holds nearly every U.S. goaltending record.
Other athletes with amputations to watch on Team USA include skier Stephanie Jallen, one of the breakout stars who made her Paralympic debut at 18 years old at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, winning two bronze medals in the women's standing super-G and super combined. She was named best female Paralympian at the Best of U.S. Awards for her achievements in Russia.
With four-time world champion and reigning overall cross-country skiing world cup champion Oksana Masters, and two-time world medalist skier Andy Soule leading Team USA, athletes are gearing up for a successful Winter Games on the snow as well as the ice. Masters and Soule won gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the men's and women's sitting cross-country mid-distance race in Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Oberried, Germany, January 20-28. Masters also won gold medals in women's sitting cross-country long distance, cross-country sprint, biathlon sprint, and the mid-distance biathlon in Oberried. Soule earned a silver medal in the men's sitting cross-country sprint.
And finally, what Olympic Games would be complete without the official mascots? For the 2018 Winter Games, they are a black bear named Bandabi, and Soohorang, a white tiger. The animals appear in South Korea mythology and are closely associated with Korean culture and folklore and will represent the Paralympic and Olympic Winter Games.
NBC Olympics' coverage of the Paralympic Winter Games will include 94 hours of televised coverage, which nearly doubles coverage of Sochi 2014. The 156 hours of streaming coverage will be available via www.nbcsports.com or the NBC Sports app.
Above photograph courtesy of the International Paralympic Committee.