Breaking Down The Three Paralympic Team Of The Year Candidates

By Stuart Lieberman | Nov. 12, 2015, 5:31 p.m. (ET)
(L-R) The national sled hockey team, the W1 men's archery team and the women's national wheelchair basketball team are the three nominees for Paralympic Team of the Year.

Three accomplished teams are up for Paralympic Team of the Year, presented by Dow. Fan voting at accounts for 50 percent of the final tally.

So who to vote for? How can one possibly decide?

We get it.

That’s why we’ve dug into the archives to find eight facts you probably didn’t know about each nominee. Take a look, and make sure to tune into the Team USA Awards, presented by Dow, on NBCSN on Dec. 27. The Paralympic Team of the Year is one of six fan-voted awards that will be presented that night in Philadelphia.

U.S. W1 Men’s Archery Team The trio of Jeff Fabry, Chuck Lear and Jerry Shields won the United States’ first world championship gold medal in the men’s W1 team event at the 2015 World Archery Para Championships. Vote for the W1 men’s archery team.

Eight things you might not know about the team:

  • The three archers on the team can shoot an arrow nearly the length of an entire football field.
  • When Fabry won the W1 individual event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it was Team USA’s first Paralympic title in archery since 1984.
  • Lear trains nearly every single day, shooting at least 150 arrows per day. He has shot well over half a million arrows in his career.
  • Not only is Lear the father of three children and three stepchildren, but he also has six grandchildren.
  • Both Fabry and Shields shoot the bow with their mouths. Fabry uses a mouth tab that’s made from a nylon dog leash.
  • Shields’ son Tyler competed professionally as an inline skater, participating in the X Games and touring with Tony Hawk. He now works as a photographer in Hollywood.
  • When he’s not competing, Fabry teaches archery to members of the Wounded Warrior Project, helping soldiers settle back into civilian life.
  • The team takes part in one of the very first Paralympic sports. Archery was first established as a recreational activity to help those with a physical disability and has been featured at every Paralympics since the Games began in 1960.

U.S. National Team (sled hockey) The Americans went undefeated during the 2014-15 season and beat Canada 3-0 to win the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships, where they outscored their five opponents 29-1 in the tournament. Vote for the U.S. sled hockey team.

Eight things you might not know about the team:

  • Josh Pauls has earned the nickname “Spuds” due to his unique ritual of facing a Mr. Potato Head figure toward the opponent’s locker room before every game.
  • Want to know goaltender Steve Cash’s hidden talent? He can kick himself in the head. Literally.
  • The team has been known to give haircuts to its rookies. During Cash’s rookie season, his teammates shaved a racetrack around the top of his scalp. (No wonder he wanted to kick himself in the head.)
  • Although Brody Roybal was born without legs, he didn’t use a wheelchair at home until recently. Before that, he used a wand to reach light switches and a box to climb into bed.
  • Nikko Landeros can speak Spanish and Italian.
  • Four former U.S. Marines — Josh Sweeney, Josh Misiewicz, Paul Schaus and Luke McDermott — are all bilateral leg amputees who helped the team win gold. All four were severely injured by land mines while serving in Afghanistan.
  • Team captain Sweeney said of the recent NBC coverage: “Now, when I tell people I play sled hockey, there’s a 50 percent chance that they’ll know what I’m talking about. Before, it was zero to 20 percent. It’s great to be able to have it as a recognized sport. We’ll get a lot more individuals coming out because of it.”
  • There’s arguably no greater sports fan than McDermott. Let’s hope for the sake of all McDermott’s Twitter followers that the TCU Horned Frogs make the College Football Playoff.

U.S. Women’s National Team (wheelchair basketball) The squad struck gold at the 2015 Parapan American Games, defeating the reigning world champions and all opponents by an average of 55 points per game to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Vote for the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team.

Eight things you might not know about the team:

  • Mackenzie Soldan also won double gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games, but in wheelchair tennis, taking the singles and doubles titles.
  • National team newcomer Abby Dunkin has a passion for reading war and military books, and when practicing free throws, she listens to the band Explosions in the Sky.
  • Often times, Rose Hollermann can be found training at the Courage Center in Minnesota, the same Paralympic sport club where wheelchair rugby star Chuck Aoki trains.
  • Megan Blunk is a Rio 2016 Paralympic hopeful in both para-canoe and wheelchair basketball. Someone has a busy year ahead …
  • Gail Gaeng is the youngest of six children in a very athletic family. In fact, at one point in time, everyone in her family was an NCAA athlete.
  • Christina Schwab, who has competed at four Paralympic Games, was voted by Team USA to carry the flag at the Parapan American Games Closing Ceremony.
  • Kimmie Champion was a member of the gold-medal-winning team in Toronto. Her last name speaks for itself.
  • Jennifer Poist received a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2013 to purchase a new basketball wheelchair for competitions. Looks like it worked.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.