From March 7-26, Team USA will descend upon Sochi, Russia to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games. Made up of 74 athletes and 6 guides in the five sports of alpine skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing, sled hockey and curling, the team is hoping to improve upon its Vancouver results. Included in the team of 74 are more than 60 athletes that Disabled Sports USA and our nationwide chapter network has been proud to be able to support throughout their athletic career. While we would love to introduce you to all 74 athletes, here are six Disabled Sports USA athletes to watch for in Russia.
Home Chapter: Challenge Alaska
Disability: Partial Paraplegia
Achievements: 2013 Canada National Downhill, Super G and Slalom champion, 2013 Copper NorAm Super G and Giant Slalom silver medalist
Starting Point: In 2007 a physical therapist saw how much I loved sports and said she had something I needed to try. I’ve been hooked ever since and couldn’t be more thankful.
Challenges: There have been many challenges, and now they’re what I use to fuel me. First I had to overcome the injury, and then I set small goals and worked to do what it took to reach them.
Home Chapter: National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD)
Achievements: Six time World Cup medalist, two time X Games silver medalist
Starting Point: I have been snowboarding for 17 years, but have only been doing it competitively for the last five years. I went for the first time in 1996 with my dad and a few friends. From that point forward I was in constant search of the snow. It was my dream to live in the mountains, but I never thought it would become a reality. In 2009 I made the big move from Los Angeles to Winter Park, Colorado to train with the snowboard team at the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
Challenges: As I look back at what challenges I had to overcome I realize that my teenage years and early 20s were a constant struggle to overcome new challenges. It’s a tough time for any growing teenager, add an amputation to the mix and it makes things much worse. Following my accident I had to overcome addiction to prescription pain medications as well as alcoholism. In 2006, I decided to make big changes in my live and I have since been living a healthy, happy and sober lifestyle.
Influencer/Hero: That’s an extremely tough question for me to answer. I think that my mom and dad would probably qualify as the people that influence me the most. They have always set a great example for me growing up and no matter what I went through, they stuck by my side to make sure that they were doing everything in their power to ensure that I was successful.
Home Chapter: National Ability Center (NAC)
Disability: Sacral Agenesis
Achievements: Named to National Team in 2006, Won Gold Medal in 2010 Vancouver Games – tallying two goals and five assists, Member of 2014 Sochi Paralympic Team
Starting Point: A friend convinced Greg to try sled hockey in 2005. Just five months after being introduced to the sport he attended a development camp where he was named to the U.S. National Team. To read more of Greg’s story, please click here.
Greg’s teammates Rico Roman, Josh Sweeney and Jen Lee also got their start with a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, Operation Comfort. For more on their story, click here.
Disability: Spina Bifida
Achievements: A two sport athlete, Tatyana has won 10 Paralympic mdeals and 15 World Championship titles in Track and Field. Tatyana also became the first person ever to win a grand slam in the major marathons (Boston, London, Chicago and New York) in 2013. Nordic: Nationals, January 2013 two silvers and a gold
Starting Point: I began Nordic last year. I am continuing to learn techniques, but I love the challenge and find that this is good cross training for marathons. The cardio and the strength needed for both Nordic and marathons are similar.
Challenges: I am used to track competitions in the summer so getting used to cold weather and having to layer with clothes and gloves instead of a tank top is new to me. Learning this sport in the past year means I saw a lot of snow in my face as I was learning new techniques. I needed to learn about the equipment and find a way to get a custom sit ski made for me.
Unique Perspective: I was born with spina bifida in St. Petersburg, Russia. I am looking forward to going back to Russia, but this time not as a “poor, unwanted orphan” but as an elite athlete who is representing her new country of America. I hope to be on the medal stand to not only make the USA proud of me, but to show those in Russia that a person with a disability can achieve so many good things.
Disability: Traumatic Brain Injury
Achievements: My biggest military award is my Purple Heart. My first ski podium in 2011, and my medal where I beat U.S. ski team members in 2013 and carried over the success to Canada where I received my first silver. Qualifying for Word Cup and for Russia.
Starting Point: I learned to ski December 17, 2008. My parents forced me out to a Traumatic Brain Injury camp that Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center puts on for severely injured.
Influencer/Hero: It used to be my grandpa because his faith in God was so strong, but I’ve been looking at my father more because he has shown me success comes with hard work, no shortcuts.
Goals: Russia for my mom and results so I can help other soldiers and show others that if a regular Joe like me can do it, with the right dedication and training, anyone can accomplish their dreams.
Home Chapter: Capable Adventures
Achievements: Making Team USA in 2011-2012, World Championships in Chun Cheng, Korea, 2013 World Championships in Sochi, Russia
Starting Point: In 2009 I was approached by Craig Bautz of Capable Adventures to attend a fundraiser that the Cape Cod Curling Club was holding for him to purchase more equipment. There I met Tony Colacchio who took me under his wing and showed me the opportunities that there were to advance in wheelchair curling.
Challenges: I have overcome many challenges! In 1993 I survived a motorcycle accident which I nearly died from, and left me paralyzed. Now raising a wonderful family with my wife Denise and our three children, Bruce, Sean, Asialee.
Hero/Influencer: My personal heroes would be my mom and all my family and friends who have supported my challenges throughout the years. Influencers for curling would be Tony Colacchio and all the members of the Cape Cod Curling Club, Team USA staff, Coach Steve Brown, Coach Rusty Scheiber, and Director Marc DePerno.