U.S. keeps dominating Paralympics with 7 more snowboard medals

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Make it a leading 30 medals for the U.S. Paralympic team. Second place? The Neutral Paralympic Athletes from Russia with 20 medals.

The Americans, who placed third at Sochi 2014 with 18 medals (just two golds) and last topped a medal standings at a Winter Games it didn’t host in 1992, go into the last two days of competition ahead of the field in PyeongChang.

Thank the snowboard team’s performance Friday. The U.S. bagged seven of the 15 banked slalom medals awarded, including three of the five golds (first-time Paralympians Brenna HuckabyMike Minor and Noah Elliott).

Nordic skiers Oksana Masters and Dan Cnossen added their fourth and fifth medals of the Games, respectively, with silvers in biathlon.

The U.S. can see the finish line through 64 of 80 medal events in South Korea.

The team’s 30 total medals mark its most since 43 in Salt Lake City 2002 (when there were 92 events). The 11 golds are its most since 13 in Nagano 1998 (when there were 122 events).

It’s a big swing from four years ago, when Russia broke the Winter Paralympic record with 80 medals plus 30 golds, more than three times the runner-up nation in each standings.

Russia topped the Winter Paralympic medal standings at the last three editions but trails in PyeongChang with a depleted roster of 43 neutral athletes due to the nation’s sanctions for its poor anti-doping record. The U.S. has a leading 81 athletes.

A closer look at the three U.S. gold medalists on Friday: Elliott went one-two with U.S. flag bearer Mike Schultz, four days after Schultz won gold with Elliott taking bronze in snowboard cross in their classification.

Elliott, then 16, was motivated to start snowboarding after watching the 2014 Paralympics from his hospital bed while undergoing treatment for bone cancer. His left leg was later amputated above the knee.

“Now I am out here ripping it with the same guys I saw on TV,” Elliott said Friday.

Minor, a 27-year-old born without a right forearm, added gold to his snowboard cross bronze, 27 months after making his international debut in the sport (which he also won).

Huckaby, a 22-year-old with a 20-month-old daughter, Lilah, made it two golds in two events in her Paralympic debut. Huckaby, like Elliott, had a leg amputated due to bone cancer.

Brittani Coury and Evan Strong (silvers) and Amy Purdy (bronze) rounded out the U.S. medals Friday.

The snowboarders’ competition in PyeongChang is finished. What’s next?

“I’m going to go get baby snuggles,” Huckaby said.

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U.S., Canada set for gold-medal Paralympic hockey showdown

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To get to the gold-medal game, the U.S. and Canada outscored opponents by a combined 80-1. The final on Saturday (11 p.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming) figures to be a little closer.

The U.S. dropped Italy 10-1 in the semifinals Thursday, hours after Canada dumped host South Korea 7-0, to set up the Paralympic gold-medal game that everybody anticipated.

Nikko Landeros, in his third Paralympics, led the U.S. with a hat trick against Italy. Brody Roybal, the youngest member of the 2014 team at age 15, scored twice and has a tournament-leading 10 goals in five games.

Roybal is one goal shy of the record for a single Paralympic tournament set by American Sylvester Flis in 2002 (via the International Paralympic Committee).

The U.S. was scored on for the first time in the tournament in the third period with the victory already in hand. It outshot Italy 33-4.


The Americans, already the only nation with multiple Paralympic hockey titles, now bid for a three-peat against their rivals to the north.

“It’s going to be a chess match,” NBC analyst and three-time Paralympian Taylor Lipsett said. “Both teams are fairly equally matched up.”

The Canadians are the reigning world champions, beating the Americans 4-1 in the final (also in PyeongChang) on April 20. Then the U.S. returned the favor with a 3-2 win in Prince Edward Island on Dec. 9. The teams then split a home-and-home series in February.

In 2014, the U.S. blanked Canada 3-0 in the Paralympic semifinals en route to gold. Its final opponent in Sochi, Russia, doesn’t have a hockey team in PyeongChang as it was unable to qualify while banned from competition due to the country’s poor anti-doping record.

The U.S. is dedicating its tournament to its 2014 Paralympic coach, Jeff Sauer, who died of pancreatic cancer in February 2017.

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Oksana Masters wins first Paralympic gold after being told to sit out

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Oksana Masters was told this day would not happen. They told her two weeks ago, when she dislocated her right elbow in Montana. They told her yesterday, when she fell in a race, reinjured her arm and failed to finish.

Yet there was Masters, raising that arm, covered nearly from shoulder to wrist in a black brace, at the finish line of the 1.1km sitting cross-country skiing sprint at the PyeongChang Paralympics on Wednesday.

Masters, who previously earned five combined silver and bronze medals among three sports between the Summer and Winter Paralympics, finally earned her first gold.

“I did not believe this would happen,” she told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to let yesterday be my last race and that’s how I end my Paralympic Games.”

Masters and Andy Soule notched an American sweep of the sitting sprint gold medals Wednesday. The U.S remained atop the medal standings through 53 of 80 events. The Americans have 21 total medals and eight golds, their most in either category since hosting the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Masters, 28, grabbed her first gold in her 12th career Paralympic event at her fourth Games. She rowed at London 2012, cycled at Rio 2016 and competed in biathlon and cross-country skiing at Sochi 2014 and in three previous events in PyeongChang.

“Internally, I kind of knew that I have had four years into this, and I wasn’t going to let an elbow take that away from me,” Masters said, according to PyeongChang 2018.

Masters, skiing with what she called “excruciating” pain, held off German and Russian skiers by 2.1 and 3.7 seconds, respectively, in the four-minute final.

Masters has become one of the world’s most versatile athletes after being born in Ukraine with defects believed to be caused by the Chernobyl disaster and bouncing from orphanage to orphanage for seven years before being adopted by a single mother in New York.

“I cannot wait to put it around my mom’s neck,” she said of the gold medal. “I told her the first gold, it’s hers.”

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