Members of the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team were nominated Jan. 29, 2014


Preview

The U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team has been on the rise since the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 where Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) and Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Maryland) combined for three cross-country medals, the first for U.S. women in Paralympic cross-country skiing since 1994 and most medals won by Team USA since Torino 2006. The team was on the brink of additional medal opportunities with fourth-place finishes from Masters, McFadden and U.S. Army veteran Andy Soule (San Antonio, Texas). In Sochi, Team USA’s Nordic roster tripled in size from Vancouver 2010, showing the growth of the program in the last decade.

Now, expectations are high for the U.S. team after consistent podium performances on the world cup and world championship stages. Soule and Masters both made history at the 2015 and 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, respectively. In 2015, Soule had a breakthrough competition, winning five medals, the most-ever at a world championships by U.S. athlete in the sport. At the next edition of the world championships, Masters had a breakout performance of her own, leading the U.S. team by matching Soule’s medal count of five, four of which were gold. She won her first world titles, becoming the first American woman to do so in the Paralympic sport.

PyeongChang 2018 will present 38 medal opportunities at the Winter Games for the cross-country and biathlon disciplines in the men’s and women’s visually impaired, standing and sitting classes. Athletes can compete in sprint, middle and long distances for both sports in addition to an open and mixed cross-country relay.

 

Storylines

  • Military Men: More than half of the men on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team were military veterans. With seven retired and one active-duty service member, the military presence on the Nordic team was higher than that of any other U.S. team at the Winter Games. That trend has continued to make an impact on the program with three of the four members of the U.S. national team having served in the Armed Forces: Soule, a 2010 bronze medalist, of the U.S. Army, Sean Halsted (Spokane, Washington) of the U.S. Air Force and Brian Price (Belton, Missouri) of the U.S. Army. Lieutenant Commander Dan Cnossen, who won three medals at this season’s opening world cup in Vuokatti, Finland, is the only active duty member on the team in the U.S. Navy.
  • Masters Rise: In less than two seasons on skis, Oksana Masters captured a historic two cross-country medals at Sochi 2014, becoming the first American woman to win a Paralympic medal in the discipline in 20 years. Since then, she has become the woman to beat in the sitting class, winning four world titles and seven world championship medals in 2015 and 2017. She capped off the last two seasons with overall cross-country world cup titles, including a perfect 2015-16 season where she won every cross-country race and earned the overall globe for women’s sitting
     
  • Biathlon focus: After three fourth place finishes at Sochi 2014, U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Program is looking to leverage their performance in biathlon with the addition of new coach Gary Colliander. Colliander has competed and coached at the highest level of the discipline, serving as an assistant coach of the U.S. Biathlon Team at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 and junior national team for several years. The change has already proven successful with Oksana Masters winning her first biathlon world title at the 2017 world championships where Colliander made his Paralympic coaching debut. 



Athletes To Watch
Dan Cnossen
Joining the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing program in 2010, Dan Cnossen made his Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014 where he had a best finish of sixth place in the men’s 1-kilometer cross-country sprint sitting. The active duty lieutenant in the U.S. Navy also had five top-10 finishes at the 2015 world championships, including two fifth place performances. Currently enrolled in the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, Cnossen is earning his master’s degree in public administration and juggles school with skiing, opening the 2016-2017 world cup season with three medals in Vuokatti, Finland. Cnossen is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V (for valor) recipient after losing both of his legs in an IED explosion while serving with SEAL Team One in Afghanistan in 2009.

Oksana Masters
Oksana Masters has represented the U.S. at three Paralympic Games in three different sports: rowing, Nordic skiing and handcycling. The three-time Paralympic medalist made the successful transition to Nordic skiing after winning bronze in rowing at London 2012 and went on to win Paralympic silver and bronze in cross-country sitting, making her the first U.S. female to win a Paralympic medal in cross-country skiing since 1994. She recently made history again when she became the first American woman to win a Para Nordic skiing world championship title, capturing an unprecedented four gold medals and one bronze at the 2017 world championships in Finsterau, Germany. Masters was born in Khmelnitsky, Ukraine with several radiation-induced birth defects, including tibial hemimelia and was adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage at age 7.

Aaron Pike 
A 2012 and 2014 U.S. Paralympian, Aaron Pike picked up Nordic skiing as a way to stay in shape after competing in track & field at London 2012. He competed at his first Winter Games in Sochi where he had a best finish of 12th in the 15km men’s sitting cross-country long distance. He made strides in 2017 when he had his best-ever showing on the world championship stage, finishing only three seconds off the podium in fourth in the men’s 15km individual biathlon and three other top-10 performances. Pike sustained a spinal cord injury in a hunting accident at age 13 when a pellet hit him in the back.

Andy Soule 
A member of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, Andy Soule left school to enlist in the U.S. Army after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Shortly after basic training in May 2005, he was serving in Afghanistan when an improvised explosion device [IED] detonated next to Soule’s Humvee, resulting in the loss of both of his legs above the knee. Soule found a passion in the sport after attending a cross-country skiing recruitment camp, finding success at Vancouver 2010 as the first U.S. athlete to win a biathlon medal at an Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games with bronze in the men’s sitting 2.4km race. After competing in Sochi, Soule made history again at the 2015 world championships when he won the most medals ever by a U.S. athlete with five—three silver and two bronze—in Cable, Wisconsin. He added two world championship medals in 2017 with silver and bronze put him in good position a year ahead of PyeongChang 2018.


Qualification

National Paralympic Committees can receive a maximum of 20 male qualification slots and 14 female qualification slots with a total of 38 medal events being offered for Nordic skiing at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Exceptions may be made via the Bipartite Commission Invitation Allocation method. Each NPC can enter a maximum of eight eligible athletes per medal event and one team per relay event. Athletes can qualify for the 2018 Games through the following: the 2016/17 World Para Nordic Skiing (WPANS) Nations Ranking Allocation, 2016/2017 WPNS Ranking Factor Allocation and Bipartite Invitation Commission Allocation.


Selection

To be eligible for selection to the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team, an athlete must hold a valid WPNS license for the 2017/2018 seasons; have achieved race points in at least one race of the 2017/2018 season by February 19, 2018; be at least 15 years of age by February 19 2018 and be internationally classified with either a ‘Confirmed’ sport class status or a ‘Review’ sport class status with a review date after the 2017/2018 season.

For biathlon, an athlete must be ranked and have at least one race of 180 points or less on the WPBT ranking points list as of February 19, 2018.

For cross-country, an athlete must be ranked and have achieved at least one race of 180 WPBT or WPCC ranking points lists as of February 19, 2018.

At the time of selection, an athlete must be a national of the United States, with a valid U.S. Passport that will not expire on or prior to October 18, 2018, and meet the minimum standards of the International Paralympic Committee, as the international governing body for the Paralympic Winter Games and the international federation for Paralympic Nordic Skiing.

The U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games no later than February 23, 2018.


Key Dates

2017

March 10-15

Test Event/World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup (PyeongChang, South Korea)

March 18-22

World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals (Sapporo, Japan)

April 1-3

U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Biathlon Nationals

May 1

Closing date of the 2016/2017 WPBT and WPCC World Ranking Lists for qualification slot allocation

2018

January 21-28

World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup (Oberried, Germany)

February 2-10

World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals (Vuokatti, Finland)

February 19 

Deadline for athletes to achieve race points as required for eligibility purposes

February 23

IPC sport entries deadline for 2018 Paralympic Winter Games