The U.S. Paralympic Team is coming off its best performance at a Paralympic Winter Games in 16 years with a total of 36 medals to top the leaderboard in PyeongChang.
Among the athletes who contributed to Team USA’s medal haul, five men stood out as among the best. Nordic skiers Dan Cnossen and Andy Soule, alpine skier Andrew Kurka, and snowboarders Noah Elliott and Mike Schultz are nominated for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Games.
The winners will be announced on Thursday, April 26 in Washington, D.C. The awards show will be televised on NBCSN on May 12 from 6-7:30 p.m. ET.
Here’s a look at the five finalists:
Sport: Nordic Skiing
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas
Paralympic Highlights:Cnossen went six-for-six at the Games, medaling in every single event he entered. He won the gold in the 7.5-kilometer biathlon, silver in the 12.5K biathlon, 15K biathlon, 7.5K cross-country, 15K cross-country and bronze in the cross-country sprint.
PyeongChang Legacy: The retired Navy SEAL and recipient of both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star of Valor was the first U.S. man, Olympian or Paralympian, to win a gold medal in biathlon.
Fun Fact: Cnossen also competed in six events at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and finished no higher than sixth. He’d also never medaled at three different world championships dating back to 2011.
What's Next:Cnossen is a member of the Harvard Divinity School’s Class of 2018. He is pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies to go along with his master’s of public administration, also from Harvard.
Hometown: St. Charles, Missouri
Paralympic Highlights: In his Paralympic debut, Elliott first won the bronze medal in snowboardcross after registering the fastest qualifying time, then won gold in banked slalom by more than a second and a half in the men’s LL1 classification.
PyeongChang Legacy:This was the first year that banked slalom was contested at the Games, making Elliott the first Paralympic banked slalom LL1 gold medalist.
Fun Fact: Among Elliott’s activities in Korea when he wasn’t on the mountain were purchasing custom-fitted traditional Korean outerwear, acting as a video blogger and visiting the U.S. Army’s northern artillery outpost to spend time with service members.
What's Next: Elliott began Para snowboarding less than three years ago and at just 20, Elliott has many years ahead of him to continue competing in the board sports he loves.
Sport: Alpine Skiing
Hometown: Palmer, Alaska
Paralympic Highlights: After breaking his back during a training run in Sochi then breaking his femur eight months later and not knowing if he could continue skiing, Kurka won the gold medal in downhill and silver in super-G in the men’s sitting classification. He also finished seventh in super combined.
PyeongChang Legacy: Kurka is the first U.S. man to win gold in alpine skiing since 2006.
Fun Fact: Kurka’s gold medal in downhill was also the first medal ever won by an Alaskan at the Paralympic Winter Games.
What’s Next: Kurka is an avid fisherman, rock climber, kayaker, hunter and all-around outdoorsman and should enjoy some well-deserved downtime this summer.
Hometown: St. Cloud, Minnesota
Paralympic Highlights: Schultz won the gold medal in snowboardcross and silver in banked slalom in the men’s LL1 classification in his Paralympic debut. ;
PyeongChang Legacy: In addition to winning two medals, including silver in the first-ever LL1 banked slalom event at the Paralympics, Schultz also carried the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony.
Fun Fact: Schultz started a company called BioDapt in 2010 after losing his leg in a snowmobile accident and designed the “Moto Knee” and “Versa Foot” prosthetics that many of the Paralympic snowboarders and other athletes use today.
What’s Next: In addition to being involved with motocross and a slew of other action sports, Schultz will continue working with adaptive athletes, members of the military and others and designing prosthetics through his company.
Sport: Nordic Skiing
Hometown: Kerrville, Texas
Paralympic Highlights: Soule passed three racers coming down the stretch to win gold in a photo finish in the men’s cross-country sprint, his first gold in three Paralympic appearances. He also won the bronze medal in the 12.5K biathlon to go along with the bronze he won in the 2.4K biathlon pursuit in Vancouver in 2010.
PyeongChang Legacy: Soule and Cnossen both continue the legacy of U.S. military members wounded while serving their country competing and winning medals at the Paralympics.
Fun Fact: Soule’s medal in 2010 made him the first U.S. biathlete to win an Olympic or Paralympic medal.
What’s Next: With his performance in PyeongChang, there’s no reason why Soule shouldn’t be able to continue his Paralympic career into 2022 if he chooses.