Team USA for the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will have some familiar faces and several new as the American wheelchair curling team was announced today at the Wausau Curling Club in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Steve Emt (Hebron, Connecticut), Kirk Black (San Antonio, Texas), Justin Marshall (Evansville, Wisconsin), Meghan Lino (East Falmouth, Massachusetts), and Penny Greely (Green Bay, Wisconsin) will wear the stars and stripes at the Paralympic Winter Games March 9-18 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“Five years ago when I first met Tony [Colacchio] and got introduced to the sport – it’s been a five-year journey for me – to go to a world championship this year in South Korea and see it empty and imagine 4,000 people in there, is an incredible thing to think about. I’m blessed and I’m fortunate to compete and get a chance to represent our country,” said Emt, 46, who skipped the team at this year’s World Wheelchair Championship.
Black, 48, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, for part of the year and Madison, Wisconsin, during the curling season to train, began curling just a few years ago but has quickly excelled. Marshall, 31, was a member of the last two world championship teams. Emt, Black and Marshall will all be making their Paralympic debuts.
Greely, 46, and Lino, 33, were part of Team USA at the 2014 Paralympics in Russia when the Americans finished fifth. Greely also was a member of the 2004 Paralympic sitting volleyball team that won bronze.
“This is the tightest field we’ve ever had and probably the strongest women’s field we’ve ever had so the depth of the U.S. program is growing,” said Rusty Schieber, national wheelchair curling team coach.
Wheelchair curling will feature 12 countries competing for gold. The U.S. team will be seeking its first Paralympic medal in South Korea after finishing fifth (2014), fourth (2010), and seventh (2006) in prior Paralympics.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I know that we’ll all be training hard to be ready. There’s no pressure to medal, but when we do it will be a huge accomplishment,” Emt said. “It’s coming up quick. I’ve had it on my calendar for a long time – years ago.”
The selection of the five-person team for the Paralympics began with the pre-Trials in September 2016 at the Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine, Minnesota, followed by the National Team Selection last November in Wausau, which narrowed the team to the eight athletes who competed in Wausau this week. The eight athletes also were evaluated at camps in South Korea and Green Bay during the past few months.
Throughout the skills tests, the Player Selection Committee assessed and ranked the athletes based on skill-shot analysis, game play and other qualities such as on- and off-ice behavior, team dynamics and practice regimen. Athletes’ prior demonstrated game knowledge and performance also will be taken into consideration.
Up next for the newly-nominated Paralympic team will be a camp in Utica, New York, with the Scottish Paralympic team followed by the U.S. Open, where competition will include four of the 12 competing Paralympic teams. Additional camps and competitions will follow as Team USA prepares for the Paralympics.
“It’s been a long journey and we are incredibly proud of the athletes who have been working so hard,” Schieber said.
All Paralympic nominations are subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Paralympics.
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