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Meet The Nominees For Male Paralympic Athlete Of The Year

By Gary R. Blockus | Oct. 24, 2017, 1:53 p.m. (ET)

Four men claimed multiple world championships while a fifth reset a world record four times en route to his world title. Needless to say, it was a pretty good year for U.S. men in Paralympic sports.

Mikey Brannigan, Isaac Jean-Paul, Andrew Kurka, Mike Minor and Chris Murphy were nominated for the title of Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

And the winner is in your hands. Vote now at TeamUSA.org/Awards.

Winners will be announced at the Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of Year, which takes place on Nov. 29 in Los Angeles and will be broadcast on Dec. 23 on NBC.

Fans can vote as many times as they’d like through Oct. 30. The fan vote will account for 50 percent of the final tally, with members of the Olympic and Paralympic family accounting for the other 50 percent.

Here is a closer look at the five 2017 nominees for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year:

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Mikey Brannigan

Sport: Para track and field
Hometown: East Northport, New York
Age: 20
What He Did This Year: Brannigan won the 800- and 1,500-meter races at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, adding a silver medal in the 5K.
Why It Mattered: Brannigan, who became the first person with autism to break the 4-minute mile mark, also won the 2015 world title and 2016 Paralympic title in the 1,500-meter.
Fun Fact: Brannigan was named Sports Illustrated High School Athlete of the Month in February 2015.
What’s Next: Brannigan says he would like to compete for a spot in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.


Isaac Jean-Paul

Sport: Para track and field
Hometown: Chicago
Age: 24
What He Did This Year: The visually impaired Jean-Paul broke a 14-year-old world record in the high jump at the U.S. championships. He then broke it three more times at the world championships in London, setting the new record at 2.17 meters, while winning both gold (high jump) and bronze (long jump) medals in his first international competition.
Why It Mattered: This was Jean-Paul’s first year of para competition. He finished eighth in high jump at the 2017 USATF Indoor Championships before crossing over.
Fun Fact: Jean-Paul took up track and field after a friend bet him he couldn’t do it.
What’s Next: Jean-Paul isbeginning preparations for the indoor championships against able-bodied athletes and wants to become a motivational speaker.


Andrew Kurka

Sport: Para alpine skiing
Hometown: Palmer, Alaska
Age: 25
What He Did This Year: Kurka won three medals at the 2017 world championships: gold in downhill, silver in giant slalom and bronze in super-G. He also won the overall super-G world cup title for the first time.
Why It Mattered: Kurka broke his back on his first downhill run at the 2014 Paralympic Games and made it back to competition just eight months later, only to break his femur.
Fun Fact: He also competes as a bodybuilder.
What’s Next: He is considered a medal favorite for PyeongChang and hopes to become Alaska’s first Paralympic medalist.


Mike Minor

Sport: Para snowboarding
Hometown: Waymart, Pennsylvania
Age: 27
What He Did This Year: Minor won two medals — gold and silver — at the 2017 world championships. He won gold in snowboardcross and silver in banked slalom. He also won a silver medal in banked slalom at the 2017 world cup finals in PyeongChang and ended the season first overall in the banked slalom and snowboardcross world cup standings for the SB-UL class.
Why It Mattered: He won all of those medals in his world championships debut.
Fun Fact: He goes by several nicknames, including Squirrel for a short attention span like the character in “Over the Hedge,” Smeagol from “Lord of the Rings” and Bowl Troll because he loves to ride the bowls.”
What’s Next: Minor, who threw out the first pitch for his hometown Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders minor league baseball at the start of the 2017 season, is focused on hopefully making his Paralympic debut at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. 


Chris Murphy

Sport: Para-cycling
Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, California
Age: 33
What He Did This Year: Murphy won two gold medals and one bronze at the 2017 world championships, earning gold in the team time trial and team sprint, and bronze in pursuit. He wrapped up the season ranked No. 2 in the UCI Para-Cycling track rankings.
Why It Mattered: The team sprint gold medal was the first in program history for the U.S. The medals also marked Murphy’s first in world championships competition.
Fun Fact: Murphy appeared as a background musician in the 2012 movie “Gangster Squad” and worked as a Disneyland musician for five years.
What’s Next: Marriage. He became engaged to Kelly Casebere in August.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Mikey Brannigan

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