Josh Sweeney

Tokyo Paralympics: Five storylines with one year to go

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Five Paralympic storylines, one year until the Tokyo Opening Ceremony on Aug. 25, 2020 …

1. Operation Gold in Full Effect
Tokyo marks the first Games since the U.S. made two major shifts toward equality between the Olympic and Paralympic Movements. More recently, the U.S. Olympic Committee changed its name to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in June. The USOPC had managed Olympic and Paralympic sport at the national level since the founding of U.S. Paralympics in 2001, but its name had not reflected it.

In September 2018, the USOPC made its Paralympic medal bonuses equal to those for Olympic medals, increasing Paralympic payouts as much as 400 percent. The move was retroactive for the PyeongChang Winter Games. U.S. Paralympians now receive $37,500 for each gold medal, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze.

2. The Rise of Daniel Romanchuk
Romanchuk had just turned 18 when he made his Paralympic debut in Rio, getting eliminated in the heats of all his events — 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m. He has since come to dominate the marathon, winning the wheelchair division in Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in the last year.

Romanchuk, who was born with spina bifida, is expected to enter a range of distances in Tokyo, given he also broke the 800m and 5000m world records in his classification last year. He could rival the versatility of Tatyana McFadden, who won three golds from 400m to 1500m in 2012 and four from 400m through 1500m in Rio.

“He has everything in his locker and has mastered all of it,” Brit David Weir, who owns Paralympic medals from every distance from 100m through the marathon, said after Romanchuk won the London Marathon on April 28.

3. Crossover Athletes
Some of the U.S.’ biggest recent Paralympic stars pulled double duty, earning medals at the Summer and Winter Games (Oksana Masters, McFadden). A few more recent Winter Paralympic champions are trying summer sports.

Josh Sweeney, a hockey player, competed in the Paralympic triathlon test event in Tokyo on Sunday. Jack Wallace, another hockey player, is competing this week at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary.

Then there’s Kendall Gretsch, a 2018 gold medalist in biathlon and cross-country skiing who does triathlons. Gretsch is actually a three-time world champion triathlete, but her classification was not added to the Paralympic program until after the sport’s debut in Rio.

4. The Return of Russia
Russia was reinstated by the International Paralympic Committee in March following a two-and-a-half year ban for its doping problems. The IPC was adamant then that Russia’s status could be revoked again with any more slip-ups, but so far that has not happened.

“The Russian Paralympic Committee continues to fully cooperate with the IPC regarding the implementation of the post-reinstatement criteria,” IPC spokesperson Craig Spence said in an email Tuesday. “The RPC is in good standing with the IPC.”

Russia was barred from the Rio Games, four years after placing third in the total medal standings in London. Some Russians were allowed to compete in PyeongChang as neutral athletes, but, unlike the PyeongChang Olympics, that did not include a hockey team.

5. Eye on the Medal Standings
China has come to dominate the Paralympics, topping the total medal standings in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 by at least 40 medals each time, thanks in large part to its prowess in swimming and track and field, where buckets of medals are awarded.

Russia’s return should shake things up. The Russians increased their medal count at every Paralympics since separating from former Soviet Republics starting in 1996. They made it as high as No. 3 in the total medal standings in 2012 before being barred from Rio.

The U.S., meanwhile, was fourth in total medals in 2012 and 2016 and has not been in the top two since it hosted in Atlanta in 1996. Great Britain, Ukraine and Australia are the other Paralympic powers.

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MORE: Tokyo Olympics: 20 storylines with one year to go

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U.S. crushes Russia in Sochi rematch at IPC World Sled Hockey Championship

Josh Sweeney
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Sochi Paralympic star Josh Sweeney scored twice as the U.S. dominated Russia 6-1 in its IPC World Sled Hockey Championship opener in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sunday night, a rematch of the 2014 Paralympic gold-medal game.

Sweeney, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant and Purple Heart recipient, was joined on the score sheet by Brody RoybalDeclan Farmer, Josh Pauls and Joshua Misiewicz.

In Sochi, the U.S. beat Russia 1-0 in the final on a Sweeney second-period goal.

“It was a world of difference out here [compared to Sochi], having that many fans to cheer ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ the entire game,” Roybal said, according to the International Paralympic Committee.

The U.S. next plays Germany on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Germany lost 1-0 to Italy on Sunday.

The top two nations from the U.S.’ group with Russia, Germany and Italy advance to Friday’s semifinals.

Also Sunday, defending World champion Canada trounced Japan 17-0.

Video: Sled hockey helps Josh Sweeney in his recovery

Monday Preliminary Group A – Japan vs. Czech Republic NBC Sports Live Extra 9:30 a.m.
Preliminary Group A – Norway vs. Canada NBC Sports Live Extra 1 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Russia NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Germany vs. Team USA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Wednesday Preliminary Group B – Germany vs. Russia NBC Sports Live Extra 10:30 a.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Team USA NBC Sports Live Extra 2 p.m.
Preliminary Group A – Czech Republic vs. Canada NBC Sports Live Extra 5:30 p.m.
Preliminary Group A – Japan vs. Norway NBC Sports Live Extra 9 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Team USA * NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thursday Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Friday Semifinal Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Semifinal Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Semifinal Round – TBA* NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Saturday Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Sunday Bronze Medal Game NBC Sports Live Extra 11 a.m.
Gold Medal Game NBCSN 2:30 p.m.

*denotes same-day delay

Sled hockey helps Josh Sweeney in his recovery (video)

Josh Sweeney
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Josh Sweeney, the lone goal scorer in the 2014 Paralympic sled hockey gold-medal game, is back with Team USA in search of IPC World Championship gold over the next 10 days.

Sweeney, 27, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device on Oct. 28, 2009, becoming a bilateral amputee.

“When the blast went off, I remember thinking to myself, oh, this is what it feels like to be blown up,” Sweeney told NBC Sports. “I saw that my hands were all messed up. I knew that my legs were gone, because I couldn’t walk. So I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. It turned out to be better than it could have been.”

Sweeney, who used to play ice hockey, turned to sled hockey and became a star, making his first World Championship team in 2012 and his first Paralympic team in 2014.

In Sochi, Sweeney’s second-period goal was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Russia in the gold-medal game. He went on to earn the Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs.

NBC Sports Live Extra will stream every game of the IPC Sled Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., starting Sunday and running through May 3.

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Sun., April 26 Preliminary Group A – Norway vs. Czech Republic NBC Sports Live Extra 9:30 a.m.
Preliminary Group A – Japan vs. Canada NBC Sports Live Extra 1 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Germany vs. Italy NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Russia vs. Team USA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Mon., April 27 Preliminary Group A – Japan vs. Czech Republic NBC Sports Live Extra 9:30 a.m.
Preliminary Group A – Norway vs. Canada NBC Sports Live Extra 1 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Russia NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Germany vs. Team USA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Wed., April 29 Preliminary Group B – Germany vs. Russia NBC Sports Live Extra 10:30 a.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Team USA NBC Sports Live Extra 2 p.m.
Preliminary Group A – Czech Republic vs. Canada NBC Sports Live Extra 5:30 p.m.
Preliminary Group A – Japan vs. Norway NBC Sports Live Extra 9 p.m.
Preliminary Group B – Italy vs. Team USA * NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., April 30 Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Fri., May 1 Semifinal Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Semifinal Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Semifinal Round – TBA* NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Sat., May 2 Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 4:30 p.m.
Qualifying Round – TBA NBC Sports Live Extra 8 p.m.
Sun., May 3 Bronze Medal Game NBC Sports Live Extra 11 a.m.
Gold Medal Game NBCSN 2:30 p.m.

*denotes same-day delay