PARK CITY, Utah ― With the help of Olympic champion Bode Miller, U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, today launched the Gateway to Gold initiative, a new talent identification program that will introduce people with physical and visual disabilities to Paralympic sport and lead them to the athlete pipeline for the U.S. Paralympic Team. The Gateway to Gold is a prospective athletes’ first step toward the podium as well as the organization’s mission to have the U.S. Paralympic Team ranked No. 1 in the world like its Olympic counterparts.
“Our goal is to become No. 1 in the world in Paralympic sport,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics, USOC. “In order to do that, we have to grow the number of Paralympic-eligible athletes competing in sport at all levels across the country. Through the Gateway to Gold program, we plan to expand the number of opportunities for potential athletes to get in front of quality coaches and take that next step towards one day standing on the podium at a Paralympic Games.”
Miller, a record-setting, five-time Olympic medalist in alpine skiing who hopes to make his fifth consecutive U.S. Olympic Team next year, and his close friend Cam Shaw-Doran, a former snowboarder who was paralyzed in a car accident in 1997, were on-hand to launch the program at Team USA Media Summit in Park City, Utah, with Huebner, two-time Paralympic bronze medalist in women’s visually impaired alpine skiing Danelle Umstead and her husband Rob Umstead, who is her skiing guide. Miller and other Olympians will serve as ambassadors for Gateway to Gold, urging people with physical and visual disabilities to dream of competing for Team USA.
“I am very happy to support the Gateway to Gold program and to encourage youth, adults and veterans – anyone with a physical disability - to get involved in the Paralympic Movement,” Bode Miller said. “I hope to help build awareness about the program and to expand the opportunities available for athletes with disabilities in the U.S. to be introduced to Paralympic sport.”
As a cornerstone of Gateway to Gold, U.S. Paralympics and its community partners, including National Governing Bodies, Paralympic Sport Clubs and veteran organizations are hosting introduction to sport and talent identification events across the country where athletes with physical and visual disabilities can have their potential measured through athletic skill drills and tests as well as assessment from top level coaches. Talent identification and introduction to sport days, which are open to all Paralympic-eligible disability classes with an emphasis on high school and college-aged athletes and disabled veterans, may be focused on one-sport or include a variety of sports including cycling, rowing and track and field. Talent identification days are free.
Following a talent identification day, athletes will have their marks evaluated, which includes comparison to national team standards, by U.S. Paralympics coaches and high performance staff. Athletes who show high athletic potential in the sport in which they were tested, or show strengths compatible with another sport, will have the opportunity to participate in more advanced U.S. Paralympics events, including clinics and competitions, which will help them to develop as athletes and move toward elite performances.
Following today’s launch, Gateway to Gold events include: an Oct. 17 talent identification day for biathlon and cross-country skiing in Madison, Wis.; Nov. 9 talent identification day for biathlon, cross-country skiing and sled hockey in St. Louis; a Nov. 9 boccia talent identification day in Atlanta; a Nov. 17 talent identification day for swimming in Lake Forrest, Ill.; a Nov. 23 talent identification day for wheelchair basketball in Los Angeles; a Nov. 29 talent identification day for alpine skiing in Park City; and a Dec. 14 talent identification day for wheelchair tennis in Franconia, N.H.
Gateway to Gold aims to identify and recruit new athletes to Paralympic sport, strengthening the athlete pipeline in all sports contested at the Paralympic Games, summer or winter.
Team USA finished sixth in the medal count at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games with 13 medals. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Team USA finished fourth in the medals table having won 98 medals. The 2010 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Team finished first in the medal counts.