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 Huckaby, Mike 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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