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U.S. Paralympians Ready To Compete On Home Snow

By Doug Williams | Jan. 09, 2015, 12 p.m. (ET)

Mike SheaMike Shea won a silver medal in the debut of snowboard cross at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Upcoming international events in alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and snowboarding 

Jan 12-13
IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup
Aspen, Colorado

Jan. 24-Feb. 1
IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships 
Cable, Wisconsin

Feb. 6-8
IPC Alpine Skiing races
Wilmington, New York

Feb. 12-15
Alpine skiing nationals (DH, SC, SG)
Aspen, Colorado

Feb. 13-14
IPC Alpine Skiing races
Aspen, Colorado

March 23-25
IPC Alpine Skiing races
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire

March 24-26
Alpine skiing nationals (GS, GL)
Loon Mountain, New Hampshire

April 3
Snowboard nationals

Aspen, Colorado

Snowboarder Mike Shea and cross-country skier and wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden have traveled the world to compete in the Paralympic Games, world championships and assorted international competitions.

They say they love the opportunity and appreciate the adventure. Then again, they also like staying at home. So both are happy that major International Paralympic Committee events in their sports are scheduled in the United States this month and next.

In Shea’s case, the IPC World Cup snowboarding event will be almost in his backyard.

It will be held just down the road from where Shea lives in Aspen, Colorado. It begins Monday.

“I’ll literally drive in every morning for training,” he said. “Do some off-snow training in Aspen afterwards, probably eat some dinner with the team, drive home and sleep in my own bed, which is very nice to be able to do at a world cup.”

He said having a world cup or world championship event in the United States simply gives American athletes “a whole new level of comfort.”

Plus, the snowboard cross silver medalist from last year’s Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, says the course at Snowmass can be built more to the tastes of Americans.

“We can decide what we like to have our course look like and we can kind of have that home-field advantage,” said Shea, who noted that some of the best course builders in the world are in the United States. “We built our course much bigger and much faster than any other country. Our riders tend to do better on courses like that, so of course we’re going to build something like that.”

No matter what the course was in 2014, Shea mostly did just fine.

Not only was he part of an American sweep of his event in Sochi (along with winner Evan Strong and bronze medalist Keith Gabel), but Shea won the first overall world cup season title in snowboarding.

Now he’s excited to get this year under way without the pressure of the Sochi Games hanging over everything.

“I can kind of kick back, relax and focus on things that I can improve on rather than just having the end goal be the Paralympic Games,” he said. “Now I can focus on smaller things … and making progress in my snowboarding.”

IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships

McFadden, meanwhile, expects to compete in three events — the 5K, 10K and cross-country sprint — at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships that will be held from Jan. 23-Feb. 1 at Cable, Wisconsin. The U.S. roster will be officially nominated today.

She’s been at home in Baltimore recently, recovering from the flu, but is excited for the chance to compete in a world event on American soil.

“To have a world championships at home … first of all, I’ve traveled all around the world and there’s nothing like home,” she said. “You have support from your family and friends.”

Plus, there’s no delays going through customs and fewer travel headaches with equipment and transportation.

The other plus, she said, is that American fans get a chance to see in person what a high-level Paralympic competition is all about. After more exposure of the Sochi Games to American viewers by NBC in 2014, she believes there might be a bump in attention and attendance at Cable.

She’s certainly trying to get the word out through emails and social media to her family, friends and fans.

“I think it’s a great way to show our sport and to educate others and to show what Paralympics is all about,” she said. “And it’s much easier than traveling to Japan or across the world when it’s right here.”

The world championships in Cable also give McFadden a chance to measure how far she’s come. McFadden, a three-time summer Paralympian with 10 medals in wheelchair racing (including three gold), was a novice on sit skis when she entered her first world cup Nordic races at Cable in 2013. She was fourth in the 15K, fifth in the 5K and fifth in the 1K sprint.

She comes into this year having won a silver medal in the 1K sprint at Sochi and a victory in the same event at the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championships.

“I definitely have gained more knowledge of the sport and more experience,” said McFadden. “I now know how to dress properly and to eat properly and to look out for certain things in the course and how to look at the snow. All those things I’ve gained knowledge in the past two years. It’s a learning curve, and I’m still learning. I’m sure I’m going to make a lot more mistakes, but that’s the fun part, just learning and growing.”

Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Tatyana McFadden

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