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How To Pick The Female Paralympic Athlete Of The Year? Here’s Some Help

By Stuart Lieberman | Nov. 10, 2015, 2:44 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Hailey Danisewicz, Oksana Masters, Tatyana McFadden, Becca Meyers and Jamie Whitmore are the five nominees for Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Five accomplished athletes are up for Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Fan voting at TeamUSA.org/Awards accounts for 50 percent of the final tally.

So who to vote for? How can one possibly decide?

We get it.

That’s why we’ve dug into the archives to find six facts you probably didn’t know about each nominee. Take a look, and make sure to tune into the Team USA Awards, presented by Dow, on NBCSN on Dec. 27. The Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, is one of six fan-voted honors that will be presented tat the awards show in Philadelphia.

Hailey Danisewicz (triathlon) won gold at three ITU World Para-Triathlon events and finished second, as part of a Team USA PT2 sweep, at the 2015 world championships. Vote for Danisewicz.

Six things you might not know about Danisewicz:

  • She said she was “totally blackmailed” to first take up para-triathlon when interviewing for an internship at the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. Program director Keri Schindler, a triathlete, offered to take her on only if she participated in a triathlon.
  • Her biggest guilty pleasures are chocolate and watching “The Biggest Loser” reruns.
  • If she could choose any new country to race in, it would be Madagascar.
  • She became the first U.S. triathlete to ever qualify for the Paralympic Games as paratriathlon makes its Paralympic debut next year in Rio de Janeiro.
  • She once said she would be willing to eat a bowl of crickets for $40,000 … because that’d pay for several new bikes.
  • Her outlook on life: “I believe that the keys to accomplishing any goal are believing in what you do, showing up on the rainiest of days, surrounding yourself by the right people and consuming substantial amounts of coffee.”

Oksana Masters (Nordic skiing, cycling) won three world championship medals — two in Nordic skiing and one in cycling — and also won the overall IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup title with seven event golds. Vote for Masters.

Six things you might not know about Masters:

  • She returned to her birthplace of Ukraine last month for the first time, where she visited orphans, wounded soldiers from the Ukraine-Russia conflict, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and local government officials.
  • When Masters speaks to groups about her disability, she tells them: "Just because you're missing a limb, or you're missing your sight, or you're missing your hearing, it doesn't mean that your life is missing either.”
  • She’s been referred to as a gypsy, because although her home is in Louisville, Kentucky, she hasn’t lived there since 2011, always moving to wherever’s the best for the sport she is currently focusing on.
  • The best thing for Masters about traveling as an amputee? Being able to take her legs off and go from 5-foot-8 to 4-foot-4. She gets some looks on the plane, she said, but it’s worth it to stretch out and sleep.
  • She likes to bring a candle to competitions to give her hotel room a homey feel and a leg charger to keep her high-tech prosthetic knees working on the road.
  • Masters is a student of the game, too. She really enjoys learning the history of sports, with her go-to book genre being sports autobiographies.

Tatyana McFadden (track and field) captured her third straight marathon grand slam in 2015, while also winning her first marathon world title and setting three T54 world records. Vote for McFadden.

Six things you might not know about McFadden:

  • She and her sister Hannah became the first siblings to compete together in a Paralympic Games when they did so in London in 2012.
  • To generate maximum force when racing, McFadden’s gloves are in contact with her racing chair’s wheels for just two-tenths of a second at a time. She generates 760 watts of power with each stroke, enough to power 10 LED TV sets.
  • She claims she’s terrible with directions, even when she uses a GPS device. But, somehow, she seems to have no trouble navigating marathons.
  • Most days, McFadden digests 2,000 to 4,000 calories, including protein every two hours for muscle recovery.
  • She loves to eat raw spinach out of a bag — one of her favorite snacks — as well as beets.
  • The “Beast,” as they call her, can often be found falling asleep on the couch by as early as 8 p.m., as she wakes up as early as 4 a.m. to train.

Becca Meyers (swimming) won three medals, including two golds, and set three world records at the IPC Swimming World Championships, where she also set world-leading marks in five events. Vote for Meyers.

Six things you might not know about Meyers:

  • There’s clearly something in the water in Baltimore — pun intended — as Meyers shares her hometown with the most-decorated Olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps, as well as her teammate and 12-time Paralympic champion swimmer Jessica Long.
  • The 5-foot-3 Meyers once found herself working out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center next to 6-foot-4 Phelps in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When he started teasing her about her height — all in good nature — she went in front of him and did 12 straight pull-ups like the world champion she is.
  • Meyers has Usher syndrome, which is the most common condition affecting hearing, balance and vision, and often causes night-blindness and a loss of peripheral vision. She cannot see below eye level unless she casts her eyes downward.
  • In March, at a swim meet in Canada, Meyers took one of the gold medals she'd won and placed it around the neck of a disabled 11-year-old girl, saying, “Someday I see you getting one of your own.” They're now pen pals.
  • Last summer, Becca Meyers welcomed her new guide dog Birdie into her life, and Birdie now has his own Instagram account.
  • Meyers counts shaking hands with President Obama and conversing with Prince Harry as two great highlights in her Paralympic career.

Jamie Whitmore (cycling) won gold in the time trial and road race C3 events at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships and won the overall world cup title with nine world cup victories. Vote for Whitmore.

Six things you might not know about Whitmore:

  • She’s the most successful female athlete in XTERRA history with 37 wins, six national titles and one world title.
  • When Whitmore started para-cycling, she posted a note on her bathroom mirror that read: “Short term — learn to ride a track bike. Long term — Rio 2016.”
  • She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Cal-State Northridge.
  • She gave birth to her twin boys, Christian and Ryder, in January 2010, which was a bright spot amid her long recovery from cancer.
  • When Whitmore won the 2014 ESPY for Best Female Athlete With a Disability, in addition to winning the award, the highlight of her trip was meeting fellow Sarcoma survivor Mark Herzlich of the New York Giants.
  • Her words to live by: “In the darkest of times it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That's when you become the light.”

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

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Oksana Masters

Nordic Skiing
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Tatyana McFadden

Nordic Skiing
US Paralympics
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Becca Meyers

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Jamie Whitmore