Top 14 of 2014: Paralympic men

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Jan. 01, 2015, 1 p.m. (ET)

As Americans watched live on NBC, the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, which included Steve Cash, Declan Farmer and Josh Sweeney, beat Russia 1-0 to win a second consecutive Paralympic title in sled hockey. It marked the first time a country successfully defended a Paralympic gold medal in the sport. 

From the slopes of Sochi, Russia, to the dance floor of Los Angeles, to the pavement of New York, 2014 was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement as Team USA athletes set the standard on and off the field of play. Records were broken. Legacies were made. And 2014 became the year to remember in the Paralympic Movement. Here are 14 male athletes who made an impact in 2014:

Chuck Aoki

A rookie to the Paralympic Games in 2012, Chuck Aoki is now widely respected as one of the best players in the world.  Aoki was crowned the best 3.0 player at the 2014 IWRF World Championships in Denmark, where the United States won a bronze medal. He was one of Team USA’s leading scorers in the event. While Aoki was a top contributor to Team USA in 2014, he also helped raise awareness off-the-court for Paralympic sport, primarily as a blogger for the International Paralympic Committee.

Cade Yamamoto and Mark Bathum
Mark Bathum (right) and guide Cade Yamamoto on the podium at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

Mark Bathum

Alpine skier Mark Bathum, along with guide Cade Yamamoto, landed on the podium twice in the men’s visually impaired alpine skiing competition at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. His podium finishes were silver medals in both the super-G and the super combined events. With two medals, he was the most decorated U.S. male of the 2014 Paralympic Games. Following the Games, he was named the Best Male Paralympian at the inaugural Best of U.S. awards.  

David Brown

David Brown, who races with guide Jerome Avery, set world records in both the men's 100 and 200-meter races in the T11 (visually impaired) class in April at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California. But his performance in the 100 was more than just a world’s best. In that race, Brown became the first visually-impaired athlete in history to break 11 seconds in the 100. His time of 10.92 shattered the previous world record by more than a tenth of a second. “I was expecting something fast, but I wasn’t expecting that fast,” Brown said.

Richard Browne

Richard Browne, a silver medalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, might just be the fastest Paralympian out there. Browne broke world records in both the 100- and 200-meter races in 2014. At a Diamond League meet in Brussels, Belgium, Browne broke his own record in the 200 in the T44 class, winning the race in 21.62 seconds and saying after the race he wants to break 21 seconds in 2015. He also holds the world record in the 4x100 T42-46 relay with Blake Leeper, Jerome Singleton and Jarryd Wallace, set at the 2013 world championships. Browne is hoping his 2014 records lead the way for some good things at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games. “Rio is the stage where we really want to show up,” Browne said.

Steve Cash

The star of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, goalie Steve Cash set the pace again at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, helping Team USA to a 1-0 win over Russia in the gold-medal game, which aired live on NBC. The only two goals he permitted in Sochi came in a 2-1 loss to Russia in the preliminary round. Cash bounced back in the finals, holding that team scoreless. With the win, Team USA became the first-ever to repeat as Paralympic champions in sled hockey. Cash ended his games as the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony. “Steve Cash has become an icon for the Paralympic Movement in the U.S.,” said United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun. “He was the team MVP in Vancouver and is a trusted leader and friend to not only his teammates, but all U.S. Paralympic athletes.”

Dartanyon Crockett

On Sept. 6, Team USA’s Dartanyon Crockett took gold at the 2014 International Blind Sports Federation Judo World Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "It went exactly how I needed it to go," Crockett said after the gold-medal match. "Before I even stepped on the mat, we had a game plan. I trusted in my coaches, and my coaches trusted in my ability, and it ended up perfect." Crockett, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the event was held, was the subject of the ESPN pieces Carry On and Carry On 2. He ended his year with a coat and warm-clothing drive for the Colorado Springs homeless.

Declan Farmer

Declan Farmer made his debut with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in the 2012-13 season, ranking second on the team in points (19) and goals (8) and was tied for first with 11 assists. At 16, he helped Team USA to a gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, scoring two goals in Team USA’s semifinal win over Canada. He finished his second season leading Team USA in both goals (7) and points (12). Farmer, a high school student in Tampa, Florida, was named the Best Male Athlete with a Disability at the 2014 ESPY Awards.

Will Groulx

A cross-over from wheelchair rugby, where he helped Team USA to multiple Paralympic Games medals and world titles, Will Groulx finished 2014 at the top of the para-cycling road world rankings. After claiming a silver and bronze medal at the 2013 world championships, Groulx won the time trial title and added silvers in the road race and team relay. “Will’s brought a lot of high tenacity over from rugby that we don’t often see in handcycling,” his coach Rick Babington said.

Ray Martin

Named the USOC Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year for both 2012 and 2013, four-time Paralympic gold medalist and five-time world champion Ray Martin did not disappoint in 2014, remaining one of the world’s fastest wheelchair racers. Martin set the world record in the men’s 200-meter T52 race, running a 30.02 on May 10 at the Desert Challenge in Mesa, Arizona.

Mike Shea

At the 2014 International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup Finals in La Molina, Spain, Mike Shea secured the first-ever overall world cup title, also earning him the distinction of the United States Olympic Committee’s Male Athlete of the Month for January. He went on to win the silver medal in the first-ever men’s Paralympic snowboard cross event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Finishing the 2013-14 season tied at No. 1 in the world rankings with Paralympic champion Evan Strong of the United States, Shea began his 2014-15 campaign by winning the first-ever banked slalom world cup title at the first stop of the International Paralympic Committee Para-Snowboard World Cup circuit in Landgraff, Netherlands. “The first-ever IPC  banked slalom event was a success in my eyes,” Shea said. Snowboarders hope the event is added to the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Ian Silverman

When Ian Silverman competed at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where he won a gold medal in the men’s 400-meter S10, he barely knew of the Paralympic Movement. Now he is one of the stars. At the spring national championships, he won four gold medals and two silver medals. At that event, he set a world record in the men’s 1500m free S10. He swam a 16:19.70, easily breaking the 16:24.63 mark he set at last year’s nationals/Spring CanAms. Silverman smashed a nearly 13-year-old world record in the men's 400-meter freestyle S10 race on Aug. 6, highlighting Day 1 of the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Pasadena, California. At that event, he won the 400m freestyle, finished second in the 200m individual medley and won bronze medals in the 100m butterfly and freestyle.

Andy Soule

While he did not medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Andy Soule was one of the top performers of the year. He finished in the top-five, including two fourth place finishes, in each of the five biathlon and cross-country events he competed in (4th/7.5km biathlon, 4th/15km biathlon, 5th/15km cross-country, 5th/12km biathlon, 5th/1km cross-country sprint) in Sochi. Soule also posted silver medal finishes in the 7.5km biathlon and 10km and 15km events and a 3rd place finish in the 1km at the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championships.

Evan Strong

Evan Strong won the first-ever gold medal in the men’s Paralympic snowboard cross event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. After finishing second in the first run, his second race was the fastest of the day for any competitor at 51.62. He was joined on the podium by Team USA’s Shea and Keith Gabel, marking the first-ever U.S. podium sweep of a men’s event at the Paralympic Winter Games. Strong also picked up victories at the 2014 national championships. He and Shea finished the 2013-14 season tied at No. 1 in the world rankings in the Paralympic snowboard cross event.

Josh Sweeney

At the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Marine Corps veteran Josh Sweeney helped the U.S. sled hockey team become the first-ever to win consecutive Paralympic  titles in the sport. In the gold-medal game, he made the game's lone goal in the second period at Shayba Arena, giving the Unites States revenge against the Russians. Russia beat Team USA 2-1 in the qualification rounds. "I still feel pretty lucky to be able to have done that," he said about the game-winning goal. "I try not to take too much credit for it." Sweeney received the inaugural Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2014 ESPYS.