20 Things To Watch For PyeongChang 2018

By Kendra Hansey | Nov. 29, 2017, 10:06 a.m. (ET)

Today, Team USA begins its 100 day countdown until the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Here are 20 things to be on the lookout for at the Games.

  1. The U.S. won 18 medals at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and seeks to surpass this count in 2018.
  2. The U.S. alpine skiing national team marks one of Team USA’s youngest squads comprised of up-and-coming talent – mostly under the age of 25 – as well as 11 members that competed in Sochi.
  3. Breaking his back on his first training run in Sochi, Andrew Kurka returns as a strong PyeongChang podium favorite after claiming three medals, including one gold, at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships and winning the overall super-G world cup title.
  4. Infamous for her joyous reaction as she collected her super-G Paralympic bronze medal in Sochi, standing skier Stephanie Jallen also clinched the super combined Paralympic bronze medal and will try to return to the podium after finishing fourth and fifth in super-G at the last two world championships.Stephanie Jallen
  5. Snowboarding returns for its second Paralympics, but now with three separate classifications: upper-limb impairments (UL) and lower-limb impairments (LL1 and LL2).
  6. The American trio of Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel will look to repeat their success from Sochi that included a historic U.S. podium sweep.
  7. Newcomer Mike Minor is the snowboard-cross upper-limb class favorite who won gold at his world championships debut in 2017 and secured two golds in banked slalom at the first world cup stop this season.
  8. Known in racing as “Monster Mike,” Mike Schultz is an eight-time X Games medalist and secured his first medal – a silver – in banked slalom at his world championships debut in 2017.
  9. With a Paralympic silver and bronze medal to her name, Nordic skier Oksana Masters won five medals, including four golds, at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, making her the most successful U.S. woman ever at Nordic world championships. She finished the season ranked first overall in cross-country and third in biathlon.
  10. Rising star Brenna Huckaby will be one to watch in the snowboard’s new banked slalom discipline. Competing in the women’s LL1 classification, Huckaby will enter the event as the world-title holder and has the potential to claim a gold medal at what will likely be her Paralympic debut at 22 years old. Huckaby also holds the world title in snowboard-cross and kicked off the world cup season with two gold medals in banked slalom.
  11. Team USA will try to keep its sled hockey-winning streak alive in PyeongChang. If successful, it will be the third consecutive Paralympic gold medal for the team. Of the 17 players that won gold in Sochi, 11 are current members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Among them are four two-time Paralympic gold medalists, including Steve Cash, Nikko Landeros, Adam Page and Josh Pauls.
  12. On the offensive side, much of Team USA’s international sled hockey dominance can be credited to the surge of forwards Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal. The duo, who have combined for an astounding 32 goals and 35 assists over 14 games the last two seasons, are expected to carry Team USA into the sled hockey finals in PyeongChang.
  13. Alpine skier Jamie Stanton was fourth in standing slalom at the most recent world championships. Should he make the team, it will be Stanton’s second go-around at the Games.Jamie Stanton Sochi
  14. A breakout star, alpine skier Thomas Walsh has consistently been one of the top-ranked standing slalom athletes on the world cup circuit and hopes to make his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang.
  15. Jake Adicoff finished last season with three gold medals, one silver and one bronze with guide Sawyer Kesselheim at the last two Nordic world cups. PyeongChang would mark his second Games appearance.
  16. The U.S. wheelchair curling team seeks its first Paralympic medal. The five-person squad is comprised of a mix of returners and newcomers. Penny Greely and Meghan Lino return for their second trip to the Games, while Steve Emt, Kirk Black and Justin Marshall make their Paralympic debut.
  17. For just the second time, the Paralympic Winter Games will take place in an Asian country, with 45 countries expected to attend the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. The PyeongChang organizing committee’s initiative “Actualizing the Dream,” which is aimed at promoting Paralympic winter sports, raising the awareness of Paralympic athletes, and securing the social inclusion of people with an impairment, is likely to be an underlying theme in the Opening Ceremony.
  18. A veteran alpine skier in the women’s visually impaired class, two-time Paralympian Danelle Umstead has competed at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games with her husband and guide Rob, winning three medals in super combined and downhill. Her most recent world championships medal was bronze in super-G.
  19. The youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team in Sochi, Staci Mannella is already one of the top visually-impaired skiers in the world at 21 years old. She is in her second season skiing behind guide Sadie DeBaun. The partnership has proven successful, as Mannella won bronze in super combined in her world championships debut in 2017.
  20. Amy Purdy rose to stardom after winning a bronze medal in snowboard-cross in Sochi. After taking a break from the sport to embark on a nationwide speaking tour with Oprah Winfrey, she returned to the scene after contracting a rare condition called Rhabdomyolysis in October 2016 and secured bronze at the 2017 world championships.