A select group – five U.S. Olympians, and eight known U.S. Paralympians – have achieved one of the toughest “doubles” in sports: competing at both the summer and winter editions of the Games.
In celebration of Women of Team USA Week, we take a look at their incredible stories.
Connie Carpenter-Phinney (speedskating 1972, cycling 1984)
The Wisconsin native, then just 14 years old, placed seventh in the women’s 1,500-meter speedskating event at the Sapporo 1972 Games. Four years later, she won the U.S. overall title and looked poised to make her second Olympic team. A broken ankle derailed her skating career, but not her athletic pursuits. While attending University of California, Berkeley, Carpenter was a member of the varsity rowing team for two seasons, winning an NCAA championship in 1980. Then, she turned to cycling, winning 12 U.S. championships – more than anyone in history – as well as a 1973 world title in individual pursuit. When women’s cycling became part of the Olympics in 1984, she won the first-ever women’s gold medal in road cycling in the final race of her career. Carpenter-Phinney is also a standout off the field: After her husband, Davis Phinney, a former professional road cyclist and 1984 bronze medalist in the team time trial, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2000, the couple created the Davis Phinney Foundation, non-profit devoted to helping people with Parkinson’s live better lives. Their son Taylor Phinney also became an elite cyclist, competing in three Olympics.
Candace Cable (Para track and field 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996; Para alpine skiing/Para Nordic skiing 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006)
One of the most prolific U.S. athletes of all time, nine-time Paralympian Cable made history as the first woman to medal in both the summer and winter Games. Overall, she won 12 medals, including eight gold medals while competing in three sports: track and field, alpine skiing and Nordic skiing. On the track, she has won an astounding 84 marathons, including six at Boston; on snow, Cable was the first American woman to win the overall Nordic skiing world cup title. In addition, Cable competed at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games in wheelchair racing, which was held as an exhibition event those years, and won two bronze medals. Cable found Para sports after a car accident at age 21, and she continues to be a leader even after her competitive career. A current vice president of both the U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association and the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, Cable consults with organizations around the world to help create more inclusive environments. She is a class of 2019 member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame.
Connie Paraskevin-Young (speedskating 1984; cycling 1988, 1992, 1994)
Born the youngest of six children to an athletic family in Michigan, Paraskevin-Young excelled in tennis, golf and skiing, in addition to skating and cycling. At age 16, she was already a member of the U.S. speedskating team; at 19, she was part of Team USA at the Lake Placid 1980 Games, although she did not compete. Four years later, she placed 13th in the women’s 500-meter at the Sarajevo Games. Then, she gave up skating to concentrate on cycling. A four-time world sprint champion, Paraskevin-Young campaigned successfully to have the women’s sprint event included in the Seoul 1988 Games. She went on to win a bronze medal, the only U.S. cycling medal in Seoul, and competed at two more Summer Games before retiring at the end of 1996. Paraskevin-Young went on to coach five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair for a time.
Chris Witty (long track speedskating 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006; cycling 2000)
Witty didn’t compete in one sport at the Olympics, and then give it up to turn to another; she juggled both simultaneously. In 1994, in Lillehammer, she was 23rd in the 1,000-meter. Four years later in Nagano, she brought home two medals: silver in the 1,000 and bronze in the 1,500. Two years later in Sydney, she placed fifth in the women’s 500-meter cycling time trial. Witty’s crowning achievement came at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games, where she won the speedskating 1,000-meter in world record time. In Torino in 2006, her fellow athletes chose her to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony.
Allison Jones (Para alpine skiing 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014; Para-cycling 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
Jones was born with a birth defect that, eventually, left her without a right leg. In 2012, she became just the second U.S. woman ever to win gold medals in both the summer (cycling - road time trial in 2012) and winter (alpine skiing – slalom in 2006) Paralympic Games. Retired from competition since 2018 and living in Portland, Oregon, she works as a mechanical engineer for a leading global provider of high precision manufacturing solutions. Upon her retirement, TeamUSA.org asked Jones what her Paralympic experience has meant to her life. “Learning how to do your best and always stand by it, and make sure you’re prepared for what comes next,” she said. “I don’t think there’s another experience out there that can replace that.”
Cara Dunne-Yates (Para alpine skiing 1984, 1988; Para-cycling 1996, 2000)
It is staggering to contemplate just how much Dunne-Yates (1970-2004) accomplished in her all-too-brief life. Diagnosed with retinal cancer at 18 months, she lost both eyes within a few years. In 1976, at age 6, she began skiing as part of the American Blind Ski Association (ABSF), and several years later began entering races. Eventually, Dunne-Yates and her stepfather, Richard Zabelski, developed the “front guiding” technique in use today, where the skier would follow the guide. The innovation helped her win five Paralympic medals. After graduating from Harvard University in 1992, Dunne-Yates toured Japan, where she used her fluency in the language to lecture on the rights of the disabled. In 1994, she entered the UCLA law school, and there began training on a tandem track bike with Scott Evans. They represented Team USA at the 1996 and 2000 Paralympic Games, winning two medals. Off the field, Dunne-Yates successfully forced the Law School Admission Council to provide the LSAT in Braille. In 2000, she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her abdomen, which later spread to her liver. She died in October 2004, leaving a husband and two children.
Tatyana McFadden (Para track and field 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016; Para Nordic skiing 2014)
The 17-time Paralympic medalist was born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder that paralyzed her from the waist down, in the then Soviet Union. Abandoned in an orphanage, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, who was visiting Russia as a commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department, and returned to the U.S. to live in Maryland. Tatyana began her athletic career as a sprinter and middle-distance wheelchair racer, winning silver and bronze medals at the Beijing and Athens Games and dominating the Rio Games with wins in the 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000. Seeking a new challenge, she expanded her repertoire to cross-country skiing, winning a silver medal at the Sochi Games. Perhaps her greatest renown has come in the marathon: since 2009, she has amassed 22 major wins in the New York, London, Chicago and Boston races – more than any other women’s wheelchair athlete.
Lauryn Williams (track and field 2004, 2008, 2012; bobsled 2014)
Two-sport Olympians are already the rarest of elite athletes. Williams, the first U.S. women’s Olympian to medal at both the summer and winter Games, is almost in a league of her own. At the Athens Games, the University of Miami alumna took silver in the 100-meter. In London in 2012, she was a member of Team USA’s winning 4x100 team. Then, former teammate Lolo Jones (see below) introduced her to bobsled, and in August 2013 – just six months before the Sochi Games – Williams attended a rookie camp. Five months later, she teamed with Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor to win gold at a world cup event. Selected as a brakewoman for Sochi, she and Meyers Taylor won silver in the two-woman race, just a tenth of a second behind the Olympic champion from Canada. With that medal, Williams joined Eddie Eagan, a 1920 Olympic boxing champion and 1932 Olympic bobsled champion, as the only Team USA athletes to stand on the Olympic medal podium for both a summer and winter sport.
Lolo Jones (track and field 2008, 2012; bobsled 2014)
Jones made her mark in track and field, specializing in the 60- and 100-meter hurdles and twice winning gold at the indoor world championships. The LSU grad was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles at the Beijing Games but tripped on the penultimate hurdle and placed seventh. Four years later, in London, she finished fourth. Jones started bobsled as a form of cross-training, and in 2012 was invited to the U.S. women’s bobsled push championship. In October 2012, she was named to the U.S. bobsled team; a month later, she and teammate Jazmine Fenlator placed second in a world cup event. In January 2014, Jones was selected for the U.S. bobsled team competing at the Sochi Games, as the brakewoman for the USA-3 sled. The team placed 11th. One of her biggest challenges? Adding weight. When the 5-foot-8 Jones runs track, her ideal weight is 133 pounds; training for bobsled, she adjusted her training and diet to add more than 20 pounds.
Alana Nichols (wheelchair basketball 2008, 2012; Para alpine skiing 2010, 2014; paracanoe 2016)
Setting herself apart from many on this list, Nichols is a champion in three sports. An avid snowboarder, in 2002 Nichols landed back-first on a rock while attempting a backflip, causing paralysis from the waist down. Two years later, she began playing wheelchair basketball, and was a member of Team USA’s gold medal team at the Beijing 2008 Games. In 2010 in Vancouver, she took gold in downhill and giant slalom, as well as silver in super-G and bronze in super combined. But, after crashing during the super-G sitting event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, she decided to spare her family additional worry about the risks of skiing. So, she took up adaptive surfing and, as surfing is not a Paralympic sport, she also began paracanoe and competed in the event in 2016 in Rio. Her next goal: raise the profile of adaptive surfing and help get it added to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.
Oksana Masters (Para-rowing 2012; Para Nordic skiing 2014, 2018; Para-cycling 2016)
Like Nichols, Masters is a Paralympian in three sports. Born in Ukraine, both of her legs were damaged by in-utero radiation poisoning from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident; eventually, both legs were amputated. After living in three orphanages, Masters was adopted by an American woman at the age of 7. She began rowing at age 13. In preparation for the London 2012 Games, Masters teamed with Rob Jones, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lost both legs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan. In 2012 in London, Masters and Jones won the first U.S. medal (bronze) in trunk and arms mixed double sculls. A back injury forced Masters to give up rowing, and she turned her sights to cross-country skiing and biathlon, winning two medals in 2014 and five in 2018, including two golds. In 2016 in Rio, she competed in cycling, placing fourth in the road race event and fifth in the time trial. She’s aiming for another Paralympic Games this summer in Tokyo in cycling.
Monica Bascio (Para Nordic skiing 2006, 2010, 2014; Para-cycling 2012)
A Long Island native, Bascio became a paraplegic after a 1992 ski accident. After five years on the U.S. handcycling team, she took up skiing again in 2002 and began competing on the world cup circuit. In Torino in 2006, she finished fifth in the 10-kilometer cross-country race and fourth in the sprint biathlon. Since then, she has gone on to compete in cross-country skiing in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014, as well as cycling in London, where she earned silver medals in both the road race and time trial. Bascio was named the then-United States Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year in 2013, in her final season before retiring. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and works as an occupational therapist specializing in geriatrics.
Jacqueline Kapinowski (wheelchair curling 2010, Para-rowing 2016)
In 1999, Kapinowski was diagnosed with stiff person syndrome (SPS), a neurological disease that results in her needing to use a wheelchair. Several years later, at age 45, she was introduced to wheelchair curling and competed at the 2008 world championship, where she helped Team USA won a bronze medal. At the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, Kapinowski competed as the lead for Team USA, which ultimately placed fourth in the round-robin competition. A move to Florida in 2011 prompted Kapinowski’s retirement from wheelchair curling, but she took up rowing and paratriathlon. In 2013, after winning a bronze medal at the paratriathlon world championships in London, she was diagnosed with throat and thyroid cancer. Surgery and treatment forced her to take a season off, but in April 2016, she won the women's arms and shoulders single sculls at the rowing team trials for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. There, she competed despite having two broken ribs, placing seventh in the women’s single sculls.