NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 13 Paralympic moments that defined the decade …
Vancouver 2010: Lauren Woolstencroft sweeps standing Alpine golds
The Alberta native delighted the home crowd by winning all five standing races (by at least four seconds). Woolstencroft, later featured in a Super Bowl commercial, actually helped prepare the Vancouver Winter Games venues as an electrical engineer. She retired shortly after those Paralympics, her third.
London 2012: Jessica Long wins 5 swimming golds, 8 medals
Long, aiming for her fifth Paralympics next year, owns 23 Paralympic medals. Only retired swimmer Trischa Zorn has more among U.S. Paralympians with 55, most by any Paralympian ever. Long debuted at the Paralympics at age 12 in 2004 (winning three events), but her greatest success came at London 2012. She matched Michael Phelps‘ feat of eight medals at a single Games, including individual titles in freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley.
London 2012: Brad Snyder’s gold on anniversary of battlefield injury
Snyder earned five swimming gold medals this decade, but we’ll focus on his second one, in the 400m freestyle on Sept. 7, 2012. It came one year to the day after the U.S. Navy officer stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, resulting in complete blindness. “It’s not a poor anniversary,” Snyder said at the London Games, according to TeamUSA.org. “I’m really looking forward to celebrating how far myself and my family have been able to come over the past year.”
London 2012: Esther Vergeer wins 4th gold, 470th straight match
The Dutch wheelchair tennis legend made the Paralympics her last competition, bowing out at the London Games. She finished her career with 470 straight match wins dating to 2003 and 21 Grand Slam singles titles. Vergeer would say that her career highlight also came at the Paralympics, when she rallied from match point down in the Beijing 2008 final.
London 2012: Alex Zanardi, former CART champ, sweeps cycling events
Those who saw will never forget Zanardi’s open-wheel racing accident in 2001, when the Italian lost both of his legs and was read his last rites. Zanardi said he went 50 minutes with less than one liter of blood, and his heart stopped beating seven times. He lived. He turned to paracyling. He became a champion again, sweeping the road race and time trial in his Paralympic debut.
Sochi 2014: U.S. sweeps snowboarding’s Paralympic debut
Americans grew to dominate snowboarding at the Olympics. In the Paralympics, the U.S. began gobbling medals from the very start. Evan Strong, Michael Shea and Keith Gabel swept the medals in the sport’s debut, marking the first time the U.S. owned the podium in any Paralympic men’s event.
Sochi 2014: Ukraine participates amid Crimea situation
The night before the Opening Ceremony, the Ukrainian Paralympic team met for two hours to determine whether it would boycott the Games. Russian troops had moved into Crimea. “If we went back home, all we could do was lie on the sofa and watch the news about what was going on in the Crimea,” Ukraine Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Sushkevych said, according to the International Paralympic Committee. “Yet in Sochi, by taking part we could fight for peace for Ukraine on Russian territory.” Ukraine, which in a symbolic protest sent one athlete to the Opening Ceremony, finished second in total medals.
Rio 2016: U.S. sweeps triathlon’s Paralympic debut
Americans won the first two Paralympic women’s triathlon titles, including a medals sweep in one division with Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell. For Stockwell, the event taking place on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks brought added meaning. Stockwell lost her leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, becoming the first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in active combat. She then became the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA. “When it got really tough out there I thought of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it back,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “They pushed me to the finish — just wanting to give my thanks to them.”
Rio 2016: Tatyana McFadden sweeps 400m through 5000m
McFadden, perhaps the most well known U.S. Paralympian of the decade, hit her peak in the Rio Paralympic cycle. She won all six races between 100m and 5000m at the 2013 World Championships. She won a silver medal in cross-country skiing at the Sochi Winter Games. She swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon wheelchair races in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Then in Rio, McFadden nearly swept the board again: gold in the 400m through 5000m, adding silvers in the 100m and marathon.
Rio 2016: Marieke Vervoort competes after signing euthanasia papers
Vervoort earned four Paralympic track medals between 2012 and 2016, all after signing euthanasia papers so she could decide when to end her life. The Belgian competed in wheelchair racing with an incurable, degenerative spinal disease that limited her to 10 minutes of sleep on some nights. “You can go in peace when the time comes,” she told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson in Rio. “I don’t want to live like a plant that I need day-in, day-out [help].” Vervoort ended her life on Oct. 22.
Rio 2016: Iran wins men’s volleyball title with 8-foot player
Few athletes stood out at the Games like Morteza Mehrzad, an 8-foot, 1-inch player on Iran’s sitting volleyball team that struck gold. “I am not the whole team, I am only taller than the others,” Mehrzad said, according to the IPC, disliking the attention.The tallest person in his country, noticed by an Iran sitting volleyball coach while appearing on TV, led the team in scoring in the gold-medal match.
PyeongChang 2018: Oksana Masters powers through pain
A rower and a cyclist in the Summer Games, Masters made her mark most of all in cross-country skiing. In PyeongChang, she overcame a dislocated right elbow a week before the Games — and reinjuring it in a fall during the Paralympics — to win her first two gold medals at her fourth Games overall.
PyeongChang 2018: Declan Farmer’s golden goal
The decade started with an Olympic golden goal and ended with a Paralympic golden goal. Farmer, then a 20-year-old Princeton student, tied the Paralympic final with Canada with 37.8 seconds left, then potted the winner 3:30 into overtime. He led the U.S. to a third straight Paralympic hockey title, one year after 2014 Paralympic coach Jeff Sauer died of pancreatic cancer.
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