Top 12 of 2012

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Dec. 31, 2012, 8 a.m. (ET)
Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic GamesThe United States sent 227 athletes to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Behind an eight medal performance from swimmer Jessica Long and four gold medals from wheelchair racer Raymond Martin, Team USA won 98 medals in London. 

Highlighted by the London 2012 Paralympic Games, called the greatest Games ever by International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven, 2012 was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement in the United States and around the globe.

January saw alpine skiers achieving new feats on the slopes. In May, snowboarding was added to the Paralympic Winter Games programme for Sochi 2014. And who could forget Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee sprinter from South Africa, competing and the London 2012 Olympic Games just weeks before he went to the Paralympic Games? There were many exhilarating moments in between and beyond.

Records were broken by athletes including cyclist Joe Berenyi, discus thrower Jeremy Campbell and swimmer Jessica Long. And legacies were made. Rower Oksana Masters became the first adaptive athlete ever named USRowing Female Athlete of the Year. Her partner Rob Jones, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was named USRowing Man of the Year. Swimmer Navy Lt. Brad Snyder won a gold medal on the exact one year anniversary of losing his sight from an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Afghanistan.

The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team won another world title. Josh McKinney became the first U.S. Paralympic soccer (seven-a-side) player to get to 100 caps. Blake Leeper, a rookie sprinter from the United States, tied the world record set by Pistorius in 2007 in the men's 100-meter (T44). Swimmer Justin Zook claimed a third consecutive Paralympic Games gold medal in the men's 100m backstroke (S10). The U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball Team took a set from China for the first time in history. And Team USA won a Paralympic medal, bronze, in men's wheelchair basketball for the first time since 2000.

Matt Stutzman of Fairfield, Iowa, showed the world you can be a champion archer without arms. Lex Gillette of Raleigh, N.C., showed the world you can long jump without sight. Paralympians everywhere showed the world there are no limits.

“In this country, we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way,” said British Olympic champion runner Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee, during the Closing Ceremony. “The Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation.”

For the Paralympic Movement, 2012 was 365 days of incredible.

But for Team USA, 12 moments were more monumental than the rest. From Dec. 20-31, unveiled the Top 12 moments of 2012 for U.S. Paralympics in chronological order. The unforgettable stories of triumph that made the list:

U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing National Team wins the Nations Cup

At the International Paralympic Committee Alpine World Cup Finals in March in Panorama, British Columbia, Alana Nichols took three golds and one silver at the competition, which helped Team USA wrap up its first Nations Cup title since 2010. Team USA was sixth at the 2011 Nations Cup.

Team USA becomes the first team to win consecutive world championships in sled hockey

It was no April Fool’s joke. On April 1, the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team won the gold medal at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Sledge Hockey World Championship in Hamar, Norway, defeating Korea 5-1. With the win, the United States became the first nation to win back-to-back world titles.

Jeremy Campbell becomes the first Paralympic athlete to throw discus over 60-meters

At the Triton Invitational in San Diego, Campbell threw 60.19 meters, a new world record in the men's discus (F44). That impressive feat was no fluke for Campbell as he set the world record three more times in 2012. He currently holds the world record with his throw of 63.45 from the Endeavor Games. Campbell remains the only Paralympic athlete to throw over 60-meters in competition.

Jessica Long sets multiple world records on opening day of U.S. Paralympic Trials - Swimming

Long broke her own world mark in the women’s 400m freestyle, which she set in 2009, with a time of 4:44.17, on June 14 the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials - Swimming. A little more than an hour later, Long bested her own world record mark in the 100m women’s breaststroke (S8) with a time of 1:28.53. Additionally, her 50m split in that race also set a new world record time of 42.07. After her eight medal performance at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, she was named the Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee.

Oksana Masters and Rob Jones row to historic bronze medal at Paralympic Games

Only two years after he was injured while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, Rob Jones and his partner Oksana Masters became the first American rowers to win a Paralympic medal in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls event. The U.S. crew came back from a sixth place start to secure the bronze medal. Both were honored by USRowing with awards after the Games.

Jeff Fabry wins the first Paralympic gold medal for USA Archery since 1984

London's Royal Artillery Barracks was the scene of one of the most dramatic contests of the  Paralympic Games. After shattering his bow in the semifinals on Sept. 3, Fabry prevailed to make it to the gold medal match where he became the first American archer to win a Olympic or Paralympic Games gold since 1996 and a Paralympic Games gold since 1984.

Nick Taylor and David Wagner remain only athletes to win men's quad doubles gold medal at a Paralympic Games

On Sept. 5, Taylor and Wagner defeated Great Britain’s Peter Norfolk and Andy Laphorne in a thrilling three-set victory (6-2, 5-6, 6-2) for a three-peat at the Paralympic Games. Since men's quad doubles debuted at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, only Taylor and Wagner have won. They were named Paralympic Team of the Year by the USOC.

Richard Browne goes from unknown to superstar in 11.03 seconds

The men’s 100 meter (T44) final of the London 2012 Paralympics Games had been dubbed the “Race of the Games”. It lived up to the hype, as hometown favorite Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain squeaked out the victory over 21-year-old Browne, an relatively unknown sprinter from Jackson, Miss. In his first international event, Browne won the silver medal with a time of 11.03.

U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder has golden anniversary

What a difference a year made for Snyder. On Sept. 7, 2011, Snyder lost his sight when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan. On Sept. 7, 2012, he stepped on to the top of the podium at the London 2012 Paralympic Games for the second time.

U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team has storied Paralympic Games performance

Team USA collected 17 total cycling medals in London – 12 in road cycling and five in track cycling, marking the most successful Games effort ever for the United States. Ten different athletes combined for the record medal count.

Victoria Arlen defeats Eleanor Simmonds of Great Britain to win gold in London

After three silver medals in three events, 17-year-old Arlen prevailed to win the gold in her final event, the women's 100m freestyle (S6). Despite a surge in the final meters of the race, Simmonds, the poster girl for the Games, placed second to Arlen, who spent three years in a vegetative state, ending in Dec. 2009.

Raymond Martin wins fourth gold medal of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Just hours after leaving the Olympic Stadium with his third gold medal of the Games, Martin returned to the track for his 10:42 a.m. qualification race. He won the prelim, securing him a spot in the final, the third to last race of the program, scheduled for almost 9:30 p.m. That night, Martin pushed through the exhaustion to beat Japan’s Ito Tomoya by more than a second. Martin raced a Paralympic record 30.25 to end the Games. He was named the Paralympic SportsMan of the Year.