Team USA athletes who topped the charts in 2015

By U.S. Paralympics | Dec. 28, 2015, 5:46 p.m. (ET)


With records broken, world titles won and limits exceeded, 2015 marked a breakout year for many Team USA athletes. Whether athletes were coming off the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games or setting their sights on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, check out the U.S. athletes who made 2015 one to remember with great performances:

Eric Bennett, Archery

Bennett came into the 2015 World Archery Para Championships in Donaueschingen, Germany as the eighth seed in the recurve men’s open division. He left as the world champion. On an uphill battle to the gold medal match, Bennett defeated top-ranked Bato Tsydendorzhiev of Russia and eventual bronze medalist Gholamreza Rahimi of Iran. Bennett, who had to change his recurve technique just months before world championships and shoots with a mouthtab, recorded a 9.1 average arrow to upset China’s Shi Xu Cheng, 6-4. Not only did Bennett win the world title, but he secured a Paralympic quota spot for Team USA.

Joe Berenyi, Cycling

Berenyi first burst onto the Paralympic cycling scene in 2012 when he took home medals of each color at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Three years later, he’s proving he’s even more of a force, adding world titles on the track to his collection. Berenyi won three medals – including two golds – at the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, winning the men’s C3 3-kilometer individual pursuit and time trial race. He also added four medals – including three golds – at the 2015 Parapan American Games and won titles in the time trial and road race in the men’s C3 class at the 2015 U.S. Paralympics Road Cycling Nationals. Berenyi took home more hardware at the Team USA Awards as he was crowned Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Richard Browne, Track and Field

Richard Browne posted two world record-breaking performances and captured his first individual world titles at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. Browne won his first gold medal after breaking his own world record by more than half a second in the men’s T44 200-meter, clocking in at 21.27. Four days later, he reclaimed his world record in the 100 with a time of 10.61 to earn his second gold medal of the competition. Earlier in 2015, Browne took home wins at Drake Relays and U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships.

Hailey Danisewicz, Paratriathlon

After just picking up the sport five years ago, Hailey Danisewicz became the first U.S. triathlete ever to qualify for the Paralympic Games in 2015. The a finalist for Team USA’s Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year will make her Paralympic debut along with the sport in Rio this summer after capturing silver in a Team USA sweep of the PT2 podium at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in September. Earlier this year, Danisewicz won her first three international triathlons of the year with ITU World Paratriathlon events in Queensland, Australia and Rio, and the CAMTRI Triathlon American Championships.

Declan Farmer, Sled Hockey

The 18-year-old from Tampa, Florida played well beyond his years throughout the 2014-2015 season, leading the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in scoring in route to an undefeated record. On home ice at the 2015 IPC Sled Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, New York, Farmer recorded the game-winning goal to secure the gold medal over rival Canada and tied the U.S. record for most goals in a world championship tournament with six. He set the Team USA record for most assists (six) and points (nine) in a World Sled Hockey Challenge. In the 2014-15 season, he played in 13 games for Team USA, leading the team in scoring with 10 goals, and leading the team in points (10-11-21). Farmer was a finalist for Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year at the Team USA Awards and won Paralympic Team of the Year with his sled hockey teammates.

Blake Haxton, Rowing

Blake Haxton is only in his second year with the national team, but he’s no newcomer to the sport. An accomplished high school rower in suburban Columbus, Haxton suffered from a flesh-eating disease before turning to Para-rowing and becoming a world class competitor in a matter of three competitions. The 24-year-old came from dead last to win the arms and shoulders single sculls at the 2015 Para Rowing and Junior World Championships Trials. In August, he finished fifth in the arms and shoulders single sculls at the world rowing championships.

Brenna Huckaby, Snowboarding

Two months after being named to her first Paralympic snowboarding national team, Brenna Huckaby emerged as one of the world’s best snowboarder, capturing the world title in in the women’s LL-1 snowboardcross in La Molina, Spain. She followed that performance with  silver in banked slalom. Soon after Huckaby earned her spot on the national team last December, she opened her 2015 campaign with a bronze medal in the debut of women’s LL-1 head-to-head competition at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup in Aspen, Colorado.

Oksana Masters, Nordic Skiing and Cycling

Oksana Masters mastered the multisport balance in 2015 with success in Nordic skiing and cycling. She won three world championship medals – two in Nordic skiing and one in cycling – and also won the overall cross-country skiing world cup title with seven gold medals. Masters captured her first international medal in biathlon after finishing second in the women’s 6-kilometer sitting sprint at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Finland. The two-time Paralympian ended the season as the No.1 ranked cross-country sit-skier and No. 6 in the biathlon. In cycling, she won her first world championship medal with bronze in the H5 road race. The finalist for Team USA’s Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year also won two bronze medals at the UCI Para-cycling World Cup in Italy.

Tatyana McFadden, Track and Field

The queen of wheelchair racing, Tatyana McFadden, remained undefeated in world marathon majors by capturing her third straight grand slam with wins at the London, Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons in 2015. Her victory in London marked her first world marathon title, which doubled as the IPC Marathon World Championships, and came less than a week after her victory in Boston. The winner of the 2015 Laureus Award set three world records in the women’s T54 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races at the Swiss Series, and also earned her fifth Paralympic Games berth with a victory at the Chicago Marathon. McFadden, a four-time Paralympian in both the summer and Winter Games, also had three top-10 finishes in the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships. She capped off the year as the Team USA Awards’ Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Becca Meyers, Swimming

A performance for the books and a prestigious ESPN award made for a fairytale week for Becca Meyers at July’s IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Meyers broke three world records in a span of five days and took home three medals, two of which were gold. The 20-year-old set her second world record on July 16 after discovering she won the ESPY award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability the evening before back in the U.S. Her podium performances came in the women’s S13 200-meter IM, 400 freestyle and 100 butterfly as she helped Team USA finish third in the gold medal count. Meyers won five events earlier this year at the Can-Am Para-swimming Championships and currently owns the world-leading mark in five events. She was a finalist for Team USA’s Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Becca Murray, Wheelchair Basketball

Becca Murray, 25, played an instrumental role in helping the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team punch their tickets to Rio with a gold medal at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. The two-time Paralympian was the tournament’s overall top scorer (72 points) as Team USA routed Peru, Argentina, El Salvador, Brazil and defending champions Canada in the gold-medal game.

Mike Shea, Snowboarding

A silver medalist at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Mike Shea captured gold and the world title in the LL2 banked slalom at the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Combined with three wins on the IPC world cup circuit, he cruised to a No. 1 world ranking in 2015 in both banked slalom and snowboardcross and was a finalist for Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Andy Soule, Nordic Skiing

Andy Soule made U.S. history by medaling in five events in the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, the first American to do so. Competing on home snow in Cable, Wisconsin, Soule won three silver medals and two bronze medals. But there were more achievements for Soule in 2015: He won four cross-country events in the IPC World Cup in Japan on the way to capturing the overall cross-country world cup title. A two-time Paralympian and finalist for Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year, Soule finished the year as the world’s top-ranked sit-skier in cross country and No. 4 in biathlon.

Roderick Townsend, Track and Field

If anyone is the epitome of a breakout star, it’s Roderick Townsend. In just his first year of competition after discovering the Paralympic Movement from teammate Jeff Skiba, Roderick Townsend set the bar high. He broke the American high jump F46 record in his first meet at the Desert Challenge Games, then set a world record and later broke it at the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships. Townsend won high jump and long jump gold at the Parapan American Games, breaking his own high jump world record. He then vaulted to world titles with four medals, including gold in the high jump, at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. He was one of five finalists for Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.

Jamie Whitmore, Cycling

Though she’s been on the Para-cycling scene for two years, Jamie Whitmore made the case in 2015 for why she’s one of the top female riders in the world on road and track. Whitmore swept the road world championships in the C3 class, winning gold in both the time trial and road race. A finalist for Team USA’s Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year, she also captured gold in the C3 time trial at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, and won silver in the pursuit and scratch race. In addition to world championship medals, Whitmore took gold in all but one world cup race of the season, amassing nine gold medals and one silver medal to win the overall world cup title.