Slowly, Sochi comes to front of mind for Mike Shea

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Feb. 04, 2014, 6 p.m. (ET)
Mike Shea
Mike Shea won four of five world cup races this season, including one at Copper Mountain, Colo.

Now Mike Shea will think about Sochi.

After four victories in five world cup races this season, Shea was nominated to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team on Tuesday. It is the first-ever team for snowboard cross, which will debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia as a part of the alpine skiing program.

“I would say that I didn’t focus on making the team too much this year,” Shea said. “I focused on one race at a time since we started the season back in November. I knew that if I didn’t look ahead too far, things would line up for me, and that approach has worked well. Being named to the team today, my dreams are starting to come true. I’m thinking of Sochi more often but I’m trying to focus on the next race ahead of me.”

Ranked No. 1 in the world with teammate Evan Strong, who also received a nomination to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team, Shea competes next at the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing Snowboarding World Cup Final. The event is Feb. 10-12 in La Molina, Spain, with two gold medals on the line.

“I like to live my life one day at a time and not get too far ahead of myself,” Shea said. “Having said that, the world cup final in La Molina is not all that important because I’ve secured that spot on the U.S. Paralympic Team. Competing at the Paralympics is what we’ve all been looking forward to since we started.”

Snowboarding was added to the Games in May 2012. With favorites in the men’s and women’s competition, Team USA will send 10 athletes with lower limb impairments to compete.

Keith Gabel is ranked No. 3 on the men’s side, tied with Carl Murphy of New Zealand. Retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tyler Burdick, wounded in Afghanistan in 2010, is No. 12. Dan Monzo is also nominated to compete in Sochi.

On the women’s side, Heidi Jo Duce and Amy Purdy are tied for the No. 2 spot on the world rankings. Duce, the national champion, and Purdy have battled back-and-forth for podium positions throughout much of the season. Duce won two silver and two bronze medals in world cup competition this season, with Purdy winning two silvers and one bronze.

Nicole Roundy is also at the top of the rankings, sitting in fifth, with the Sochi podium in striking distance. Cristina Albert and Megan Harmon were nominated for the team along with Duce and Purdy.

“I would say that just when we think we can’t get any better or any stronger on the course or in our friendships, we do,” said Shea. “We had a great experience at the recent world cup in Canada, really coming together. We had a men’s world cup sweep and the women had two on top of the podium as well. We’re in a great position for Sochi, mainly because of our coaches and the support of U.S. Paralympics. I’m confident in our team.”

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games is March 7-16 with the inaugural snowboard cross event set for March 14.