Laurie Stephens

Kendall Gretsch wins first U.S. gold medal of Paralympics

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Kendall Gretsch, an ESPY-nominated paratriathlete, earned the first U.S. medal of the Paralympics. It just happened to be gold in her very first Paralympic event and the first U.S. women’s biathlon medal in the Olympics or the Paralympics.

The U.S. swept the opening biathlon events — its first Olympic or Paralympic biathlon titles — and earned an Alpine skiing gold, too. It has now won more gold medals — three — than it did in the entirety of the Sochi Paralympics.

Gretsch, 25, won the 6km sitting on the first of nine days of medal competition in PyeongChang.

Then retired Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen, the only double-amputee Navy SEAL in history, according to TeamUSA.org, earned his first Paralympic medal, also a gold, in the men’s 7.5km sitting event.

Oksana Masters made it a U.S. one-two in the women’s race, finishing 22.8 seconds behind Gretsch for her fourth Paralympic medal between Summer and Winter Games. Masters’ previous medals came in cross-country skiing and rowing.

In Alpine skiing, 2017 World champion Andrew Kurka crushed the sitting downhill field by 1.64 seconds for his first Paralympic medal in his second Games. Starting at age 8, Kurka won six Alaska state wrestling titles before an ATV accident at age 13 severely damaged three vertebrae in the middle of his spinal cord.

He withdrew during the Sochi Paralympics after breaking his back in his first training run.

“It makes it that much more meaningful, since I have broken my back, my femur, all the bones I have broken throughout my career,” he said. “All the pain, all the anguish, all the doubt I have ever had, it’s all worth it.”

Laurie Stephens captured her seventh Paralympic medal Saturday morning, bronze in the women’s sitting downhill.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year.

Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for Rio 2016, it would not include Gretsch’s classification. Still wanting to compete at a Games, she picked up Nordic skiing, according to TeamUSA.org.

Cnossen earned his first medal in 25 career Paralympic and world championships biathlon and cross-country skiing events dating to 2011.

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 Harvard, where he earned master’s degree in public administration and theological studies.

He was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor from the Secretary of the Navy for his service in combat.

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.

NBCSN will air broadcast coverage starting at 11 p.m. ET.

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MORE: Paralympic TV, streaming schedule

U.S. wins 2 more medals on Day 3 of Paralympics

Laurie Stephens
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Laurie Stephens and Stephanie Jallen won super-G bronze medals Monday, upping the U.S. medal total at the Paralympics to seven through three days of competition.

Stephens won her second sitting bronze medal of the Winter Games to give her six for her career. She did it in a race that saw U.S. teammates Alana Nichols and Stephani Victor crash and get helicoptered to a hospital.

Jallen won standing bronze in her Paralympic debut at 18 years old.

“It’s something I only dreamed about,” Jallen said, according to TeamUSA.org “I have never been a bigger believer that dreams come true than right now. I’ve imagined it for the last nine years of my life, and in my very first run in the Paralympic Games I score a bronze. I can’t wait to bring it home.”

The U.S. wheelchair curling team lost both of its games Monday, falling to 1-4.

Sochi Paralympic broadcast schedule

U.S. wins 3 medals on first day of Sochi Paralympics

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Veteran U.S. Paralympic medalists added three more Alpine skiing medals on the first day of competition at the Paralympics on Saturday.

The greatest success came in women’s sitting downhill, where Alana Nichols and Laurie Stephens took silver and bronze. Nichols, the first U.S. woman to win gold medals in the Summer and Winter Paralympics, took her sixth career Paralympic medal. She was .14 of a second behind gold medalist Anna Schaffelhuber of Germany.

“I really feel like I could have skied better,” Nichols said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Not terribly happy with the performance today, but considering I hung in there and was able to finish in second, I consider it a win.”

Stephens won her fifth career Paralympic medal.

Earlier, seven-time Paralympian Allison Jones led it off with a bronze in the standing downhill. Jones, who has won Summer and Winter Paralympic medals in cycling and Alpine skiing, bagged the eighth of her career.

The defending Olympic champion U.S. men’s ice sledge hockey team beat Italy 5-1 to open its schedule. It got two goals from Brody Roybal.

The U.S. wheelchair curling team lost its first two games, 6-4 to Slovakia and 9-5 to South Korea.

Russia won 12 medals overall Saturday to take a comfortable lead in the overall medal table. The U.S.’ three medals tied for third after the first of 10 days of competition.

Sochi Paralympics broadcast schedule