U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team takes part in relays on Day 8

By Nick Kiger | March 15, 2014, 8 a.m. (ET)
Tatyana McFadden

Tatyana McFadden helped Team USA to a sixth place finish in the mixed relay.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The Paralympic cross-country skiing competition had a much different feel today as for the first time in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games there were no individual races. Instead, all teams took part in two separate relays, the cross-country 4x2.5 kilometer mixed relay and the cross-country 4x2.5km open relay, both of which were new to the Paralympic program. 

The U.S. fielded teams in both events, finishing sixth in the mixed relay and ninth in the open relay, respectively. But for the Americans today was more than just landing a spot on the podium as team spirit and pride in being able to field two relay teams took precedence over all else.

“The most important thing today for us as a nation is that we got to field two full relay teams,” said  John Farra, director of high performance for the U.S. Paralympics Nordic skiing program. “Team relays are such a great way to bring the team together. We all did face paint today and really felt like Team USA, I am really proud of how the guys performed.”

The American mixed relay team, which can include two, three or four competitors but must include at least one woman, was made up of just two competitors for the Americans. 2014 Paralympic Winter Games silver medalist Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.), a sit skier, skied the first and third legs of the relay while visually impaired skier Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho), who was joined by his guide Reid Pletcher (Ketchum, Idaho) to ski the second and fourth legs.

Adicoff and McFadden finished in a time of 29:06.7 in the event which was won by Russia who finished in a time of 27:35.6. Sweden took second and Norway was third.

Many members of Team USA felt today’s events were a nice change of pace after seven days of individual competition leading up to today’s team events.

“I personally love the team aspect, because you try just that much harder for the team,” said Pletcher.  “It’s not just about you; it’s about doing anything you can and giving your last bit of energy for the team.”

 McFadden echoed those thoughts.

“It was the first time that we have been able to do this together so it was nice to have the team effort instead of just having to go out there individually, we were really able to support each other out there.”

The team’s decision to only include two competitors in the first race was all about strategy as the number of skiers and overall makeup of the team were carefully calculated all week by the U.S. coaching staff. 

“We didn’t know what was going to happen today,” said Farra. “We did notice that other nations were running two skier scenarios in their four leg relays so we did some math on it felt like it would give us the best chance to hold with some of these other nations.”

The open relay squad, which could also include two, three or four athletes but did not require a female participant, was made up of Omar Bermejo (Grand Rapids, Mich.), visually impaired skier and Navy veteran Kevin Burton (Boulder, Colo.), and sit skiers Augusto Perez (East Syracuse, N.Y.) and Army veteran Bryan Price (Leeton, Mo.). The team finished with a time of 29:58.3 as Russia won the event in a time of 24:22.8. Ukraine was second and France finished third.

The Americans will conclude the Nordic skiing competition of the 2014 Games tomorrow with 14 athletes slated to compete in six cross-country events.