Dan Cnossen came to the Paralympics with quite the résumé: purusing his second master’s degrees from Harvard. A Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart. The only double-amputee Navy SEAL in history, according to TeamUSA.org.
Now he’s also a gold medalist.
The 37-year-old earned his first medal in 25 career biathlon and cross-country events at the world championships and Paralympics dating to 2011. He won the first men’s biathlon event of the PyeongChang Games, the 7.5km sitting competition.
Cnossen did not know he won the race when he crossed the finish line due to the staggered start. Biathletes went off at 30-second intervals and raced against the clock.
“A guy who was taking the transponder off was saying, ‘I think an American is in at first,’ and I was like, ‘Maybe that’s me,'” said Cnossen, who finished 14th in this event in Sochi.
In September 2009, Cnossen was serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he was injured by an improvised explosive device.
Cnossen learned his legs had been amputated just above the knee when he woke up after being unconscious for eight days, according to the Harvard Gazette.
Four months later, Cnossen sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House dinner with military leaders. He picked up Nordic skiing that same year.
“I love being part of a team in the military, and when I became injured I was looking to seek that out again,” Cnossen said Saturday. “The Paralympic team has been the most perfect fit for me.”
Then in April 2014, Obama told Cnossen’s story at the White House visit for Team USA Olympians and Paralympians.
“I will always remember Dan,” Obama said. “Dan’s come a long way in the four years that we met, and I know that his story and the stories of all our Olympians and Paralympians are nowhere near finished.”
The Paralympics continue with more medal events in Alpine skiing and biathlon overnight into Saturday, all events streamed live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.
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