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Here’s Your Cheat Sheet For Voting For Male Paralympic Athlete Of The Year

By Stuart Lieberman | Nov. 11, 2015, 2:21 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Joe Berenyi, Declan Farmer, Mike Shea, Andy Soule and Roderick Townsend are the five nominees for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Five very accomplished athletes are up for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year. 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 Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year is one of six fan-voted awards that will be presented that night in Philadelphia.

Joe Berenyi (cycling) won three medals — including two golds — at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, and he added four medals, including three golds, at the 2015 Parapan American Games. Vote for Berenyi.

Six things you might not know about Berenyi:

  • Missing the sounds of America’s pastime with the World Series over? Vote for Berenyi, who played baseball for two years at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
  • Berenyi also competes — and frequently wins — against able-bodied cyclists in local road races and on Thursday nights at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, Illinois.
  • At the 2015 ESPY Awards, where Berenyi was nominated for Best Male Athlete With a Disability, media members compared his bearded and long-haired look to Forrest Gump when he ran across the country.
  • Berenyi is missing his right arm and left kneecap. He lost it in his 40-foot fall while working at a construction site in 1994, five minutes before he was planning to go get the engagement ring for his now-wife of 20 years.
  • His three daughters (Sydney, Gwen and Tatum) mean the world to him.
  • Tatum, Berenyi’s youngest daughter, had a writing assignment in second grade that required her to capture the excitement and memories from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where her dad won a gold medal in world-record time.

Declan Farmer (sled hockey) led Team USA in season scoring and recorded the game-winning goal at the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships, where he also tied the U.S. record with six goals in a world championship tournament. Vote for Farmer.

Six things you might not know about Farmer:

  • Farmer, now 18, learned to walk on prosthetic legs before his first birthday.
  • His favorite actor is Will Ferrell and his favorite movie is “Anchorman,” but he has clearly expressed that he would not like to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
  • The whole world loves Farmer. Just ask. After helping Team USA claim Paralympic gold in 2014, Farmer was voted by the global public as the International Paralympic Committee’s Best Male Athlete at Sochi 2014 Games.
  • Though he can bench press 245 pounds, Farmer insists he is one of the weaker players on the U.S. sled hockey team.
  • In February 2012, Farmer was featured on NBC’s annual Hockey Day in America coverage. The pre-recorded feature piece, “Determination overcomes disability,” showcased his story as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning sled hockey team.
  • He keeps his Paralympic gold medal in his bedroom drawer. But don’t tell anyone.

Mike Shea (snowboarding) won the LL2 banked slalom world title and three world cup events to end the season ranked No. 1 in the world in both banked slalom and snowboard cross. Vote for Shea.

Six things you might not know about Shea:

  • Ice cream is one of his favorite unhealthy splurge foods, and he finds himself eating banana splits way too often. But it’s always worth every bite.
  • After Shea’s boating accident in 2002, he became an avid woodworker, making custom furniture in the garage of his California home. But he sold his woodworking shop in 2010 to fund his move to Colorado to become a snowboarder.
  • He also works as a coach at the National Sports Center for the Disabled, passing his experience as a top-level athlete onto the next generation.
  • Shea and teammates Evan Strong and Keith Gabel refer to themselves the “Three Amigos,” with their friendly rivalry including both snowboard and paper airplane competitions. The three swept the Sochi 2014 Paralympic podium for snowboard cross, with Shea taking silver.
  • Shea’s mother doesn’t watch him compete at events. Although he’s a mama’s boy, whenever she shows up at his races, he gets hurt or cannot focus.
  • Shea competed in adaptive snowboarding’s X-Games debut in January, placing fifth.

Andy Soule (Nordic skiing) won the most medals ever (five) by a U.S. athlete at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships and added five world cup medals to win the overall cross-country world cup title. Vote for Soule.

Six things you might not know about Soule:

  • Veterans Day is Nov. 11. What better way to honor your American heroes than voting for a U.S. Army specialist turned Paralympian? Soule lost both his legs in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan.
  • When Soule first tried biathlon as part of his rehab in 2007, despite his U.S. Army training, he hit just two of his first 10 shots.
  • Soule likes to crack jokes about booking an extra airplane business class seat for his prosthetic legs when traveling to competitions.
  • He was born at the Torrejon Air Force Base in Madrid.
  • A #TexasBiathlonTeam hashtag is an oxymoron, no? It typically comes with a post from Soule, trying to train for skiing in the South when it’s 91 degrees.
  • For two years in Oklahoma City, Soule studied ballistics, the science of projectiles and firearms.

Roderick Townsend (track and field) won four medals at the IPC Athletics World Championships in his first year of Paralympic competition, taking gold in the high jump T47 and twice setting world records in his signature event. Vote for Townsend.

Six things you might not know about Townsend:

  • Prior to this summer, Townsend had never left the United States. In the last four months, he’s travelled to Toronto and Doha, Qatar, for competitions.
  • Townsend is now enjoying his first rest period in 15 months. He trained 14 months straight through October because of his transition from able-bodied to Paralympic competition.
  • How much does Townsend loves his sport? He recently changed his Twitter handle to @TheJumpAddict.
  • Townsend said he can’t wait to bite into his first-ever Philly cheesesteak during his trip to the Team USA Awards in Philadelphia.
  • As a defensive end, he was team captain of his high school’s varsity football team, and he was also a five-time all-Mountain West Conference track and field athlete at Boise State.
  • “Three or four years down the road, I should be able to laugh at the marks I have now,” Townsend said of his current high jump marks.

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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Joe Berenyi

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Declan Farmer

Sled Hockey
US Paralympics
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Mike Shea

US Paralympics
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Andy Soule

Nordic Skiing
US Paralympics
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Roderick Townsend

Track and Field