100 day countdown to 2010 Paralympic Winter Games

Dec. 02, 2009, 12:31 p.m. (ET)

December 2 marks 100 days until the 2010 Paralympic Games get underway in Vancouver, Canada. The 2010 Games will feature five sports with 64 medal events including: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, sled hockey and wheelchair curling. Roughly 600 Paralympic athletes and officials are expected to take part in the Vancouver Games, March 12-21. The Paralympic Games take place two weeks following the Olympic Games and are held in the same venues as the Olympics.

Athletes to Watch
Several Americans will be vying for medals in Vancouver and Whistler come next March. So far, wheelchair curling is the only sport to have nominated its 2010 team, consisting of Augusto Perez, James Joseph, James Pierce, Patrick McDonald and Jacqueline Kapinowski. The team recently placed fourth at world championships.

Danelle and Rob Umstead: Alpine Skiing
This husband and wife duo are aiming to hit the slopes come March with one major goal, to bring home gold for the United States. They founded Team Vision4Gold that started with Danelle's dream, "Vision is to have sight, an idea, or a dream.  It began with my vision for gold at the Paralympic Winter Games, and the desire to win four gold medals in Vancouver." Rob, a University of Massachusetts graduate was a member of the university's ski team and is Danelle's full-time guide. 

Steve Cash: Sled Hockey
Goalie Steve Cash helped lead Team USA to its first-ever world championships gold medal this past spring at the 2009 IPC Ice Sled Hockey World Championships in the Czech Republic. Cash is looking to enter the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver as the number one goaltender for the U.S. team.

Augusto Perez: Curling
Augusto "Goose" Perez is leading the wheelchair curling team for a chance to win a first-ever Paralympic medal for the U.S. The Madrid native and father of twins led the team to the bronze medal at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in 2008.   

Tyler Walker: Alpine Skiing
Walker has been a member of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team since 2003. He made his Paralympic Winter Games debut in Torino in 2006. In 2007, he won gold at the first-ever Mono-skier X competition at the Winter X Games and won the World Cup Giant Slalom championship. Walker also won the men's sitting downhill at the World Cup earlier this year.

Sean Halsted: Nordic Skiing
After a breakout year in 2007, Halsted began competing regularly on the World Cup circuit. By 2008, he was ranked 16th after only his third year with the team.

Andy Soule: Nordic Skiing
A veteran of the Afghanistan war, Soule is training to make his debut in Nordic events, biathlon and cross country skiing. In 2008, he and the team finished in 12th place in World Cup standings.

Kelly Underkofler: Nordic Skiing
Kelly Underkofler returns in both the biathlon and cross country events. She competed in both the 2002 and the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. Underkofler finished fourth in the long distance biathlon and had five other top-10 finishes in Torino.

Andy Yohe: Sled Hockey
Team captain Andy Yohe is a veteran that will put the U.S. in position to be medal contenders in Vancouver. Yohe was a member of Team USA in 2006 and helped the team win a bronze medal at the Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy.  Yohe scored the gold medal winning goal, with 11 seconds remaining in the championship game, for Team USA at the 2009 IPC Ice Sled Hockey World Championships. 

Monte Meier: Alpine Skiing
After contemplating retirement at the conclusion of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games, Meier felt like he still had more to give and chose to continue skiing. If he makes it to Vancouver, he will be competing in his fifth consecutive Paralympic Winter Games.  He made podium finishes in three of four events at the 2008 National Championships. (Super G, giant slalom, and slalom) He has also been consistently ranked in the top-15 through the 2007-2008 season.

Stephani Victor: Alpine Skiing
Victor is expected to lead the way for the female mono-skiers after collecting three gold medals and one silver medal at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Kangwonland, Korea. She will be a major contender in the slalom, giant slalom, and super G.

Chris Devlin-Young: Alpine Skiing
Devlin-Young is looking to compete in his fourth Paralympic Winter Games. "CDY," as his teammates call him, is owner of four Paralympic medals and was recently inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame alongside professional athletes Troy Glaus and LaDainian Tomilson. 

Follow Paralympic Hopefuls at USParalympics.org
Exclusive access to Team USA hopefuls is available only at USParalympics.org!

Each month a Paralympian will be featured on USParalympics.org's Going for Gold video series.

December's featured athlete is dual sport athlete Alana Nichols.  Nichols won a gold medal with the women's wheelchair basketball team at the 2008 Games in Beijing, now she's taken to the slopes in hopes of making it to Vancouver.

You can also revisit past Going for the Gold Paralympians Heath Calhoun (alpine skiing), Augusto Perez (wheelchair curling), Steve Cash (sled hockey) and others by visiting the video section of the site.

As well, you can follow 2010 Team USA hopeful Danelle Umstead as she blogs about her experiences as a visually impaired alpine skier.

Paralympic Winter Sports:

Alpine Skiing
Downhill racing started as a demonstration event at the 1980 Paralympic Games in Geilo, Norway.  The giant slalom was first a demonstration event in 1984, and mono-skiing was introduced in the alpine and Nordic events in 1988 at the Games in Innsbruck, Austria. The alpine disciplines include the same events contested in Olympic competition:  downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super-G. Paralympic alpine skiing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.

Biathlon has been a part of the Paralympic Winter Games since 1992 in Tignes, France, where only the visually impaired and the standing classes competed.  At Lillehammer in 1994, the sitting classes also participated. Biathletes compete using the freestyle technique. Biathlon combines elements of cross country skiing and sharp shooting.  Athletes ski three 2.5 km loops (7.5 km total), stopping after the first two loops to shoot at five targets (10 targets total).  One minute is added to the athlete's finishing time for each miss.

Cross Country Skiing
Cross country events have been a part of the Paralympic Winter Games since the sport was first introduced at the Ornskjoldsvik (Sweden) Games in 1976. Cross country races range from 2.5 km to 20 km depending on disability and gender. Paralympic Nordic skiing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.

Wheelchair Curling
Wheelchair curling made its debut at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino. Competition takes place between two competitors from each of two teams. Stones are "thrown" by hand, or by the use of a "stick" towards a target at the opposite end of the ice. The object is to get a team's stones as close to the center of the target (the "house") as possible. Six ends are played with a possible extra end if the teams are tied after six. There is no sweeping, however, and only competitors in wheelchairs are allowed to compete.

Sled Hockey
Sled hockey has become a fan favorite ever since it was introduced as a medal sport in the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Team USA won its first Paralympic medal in the sport - gold - at the Salt Lake Games in 2002. Just as in ice hockey, sled hockey is played with six players (including a goalie) at a time. Players propel themselves on their sled by use of spikes on the ends of two, three-foot-long sticks, enabling a player to push himself as well as shoot and pass ambidextrously.  Rinks and goals are regulation Olympic-size, and games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods. Paralympic sled hockey competition is open to male athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.

Paralympic Experience Vancouver
The Paralympic Experience program shows individuals with physical disabilities how participation in sport and living a healthy, active lifestyle can have a profoundly positive impact on their lives.

Every two years, one Paralympic Experience is held internationally in conjunction with the Paralympic Games. Students with physical disabilities (ages 14-19), as well as the teachers and coaches who instruct them, are selected to attend the Paralympic Games to see elite-level competition, participate in mentoring activities and network with one another.

U.S. Paralympics will be hosting 12 student-athletes with physical disabilities and six adults, made up of coaches, teachers and program leaders at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

The 2010 Paralympic Winter Games will take place in two separate cities. Alpine skiers will vie for the gold at Whistler Creekside, while Whistler Paralympic Park will host biathlon and cross country skiers. These athletes will reside in the Paralympic Athlete Village - Whistler.

Sled hockey and wheelchair curling athletes will be housed at the Paralympic Athlete Village - Vancouver and compete at the UBC Thunderbird Arena and the Vancouver Paralympic Center, respectively.