Heart and Soule

By Nick Kiger | March 07, 2014, 1 a.m. (ET)

Andy Soule
Andy Soule, a U.S. Army veteran, won a bronze medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

At the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, sit-skier Andy Soule (San Antonio, Texas) made history by becoming the first American biathlete to medal in the Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games. Soule, now 33, finished third in the 2.4-kilometer biathlon event. 

Fast forward four years and Soule is now in a position to improve upon that performance at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games set to begin Friday (competition starts March 8), despite taking a two year absence from the sport.

Soule is again considered to be one of Team USA’s best hopes at a medal. He, however, has elected to not make that his one and only goal at the Games.

“My goals are based on making sure I do everything possible to have that perfect day,” notes Soule. “I try not to set goals based on what place I want because there are so many things that can happen that are out of my control. I want to do the very best that I can with all the things that are within my control.”

For Soule, who lost both his legs after a roadside bomb detonated next to his Humvee while serving in the Army in Afghanistan in 2005, doing the best he can to perform well in Sochi has meant stepping up his training and conditioning over the last year.

Soule took two years off after the Vancouver Games to study ballistics, but since his return to the U.S. Paralympic Nordic program in 2013, his focus has been returning to peak fitness levels, and the hard work he has put in has begun to pay off.

“This season I am back up to full fitness, which has been the plan all along,” Soule said. “I had some good results this season and that has shown me that a good performance in Sochi is certainly within reach.”

Since returning to international competition, Soule has posted several noteworthy performances that have prepared him well for Sochi.

At the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Cup in Cable, Wis., Soule recorded five top-10 finishes, which included a second place finish in the 12.5-kilometer biathlon.

Soule also had the opportunity to compete in a pre-Paralympic world cupevent in Sochi last March where he finished sixth in the biathlon. More importantly, that event gave him a sneak peak at the course he will compete on in Sochi, a course he says will certainly test him and his teammates.

 “It’s a really good course, probably middle of the road with regard to overall difficulty but it does have a lot of gradual climbs that I was not used to, so preparing for that has worked heavily into my training.”

So far in 2014, Soule is seeing great results from his training and it his has him peaking just in time for the Games. At last month’s U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championships, Soule was on the podium four times, collecting silver in the 7.5-kilometer biathlon as well as the 10-kilometer and 15-kilometer cross country events to go along with a bronze medal in the 1-kilometer cross country event.

Soule has channeled that recent success into his training in Winter Park, Colo., and will continue to do so when he and some of his teammates head over to Italy next week to take part in their final training camp before the Games.

“Right now we are getting in lots of good volume and training in Winter Park and we look to continue that once we head over to Europe for our last team training camp,” said Soule.

At the Games, Soule will likely compete in all the Nordic events on the schedule, but admits he expects to shine more in the biathlon races.

“I expect to compete in all the biathlon events because I am better in those than in the cross country events,” he said.

Soule will waste little time getting started at the 2014 Games as the biathlon competition begins on March 8, the day after the Opening Ceremony, with the 7.5-kilometer event.