Whether it was on the snow in PyeongChang or in the busy streets of New York City, Team USA had a sensational 2018. Take a look back and ring in the new year with the top 10 moments from the past 12 months for the red, white, and blue.
The United States Olympic Committee board of directors voted this past September to increase Operation Gold awards for Paralympic athletes by as much as 400 percent, providing Paralympic athletes with the same medal payouts as Olympic athletes. “Paralympians are an integral part of our athlete community and we need to ensure we’re appropriately rewarding their accomplishments,” said USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland. Medal payments will be retroactively distributed to include medals won at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 with gold medals earning $37,500, silver garnering $22,500, and $15,000 for bronze.
Straight from the horse’s mouth: Americans produce record medal haul at World Equestrian Games
Team USA crafted an historic performance at the World Equestrian Games in Mill Spring, North Carolina in September, winning one silver and three bronze medals. Three-time Paralympian Rebecca Hart finished competition as the top U.S. medal winner, collecting silver in Para-dressage freestyle Grade III and bronze in the Para-dressage individual test event Grade III. Fellow Paralympian Roxanne Trunnell provided a bronze medal in the Para-dressage freestyle Grade I and Kate Shoemaker solidified a spot on the podium with a bronze-medal performance in the Para-dressage freestyle Grade IV. All four medals marked the first-ever medals for the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games.
Making History: Team USA dominates at Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018
The U.S. delegation made a statement in South Korea back in March, finishing the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 atop both the overall and gold medal tables. Team USA captured 36 medals total, its highest since 2002 when it amassed 43 at the home Games in Salt Lake City. The 13 golds won in PyeongChang fueled the Americans to the top of the gold medal count for the first time since 1992 in Tignes and Albertville where the U.S. won 21 golds. Oksana Masters left PyeongChang as the most decorated female U.S. athlete with five medals (2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze). On the men's side, Dan Cnossen earned six medals to finish the Games as the most decorated U.S. man (1 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze). Other highlights include the U.S. sled hockey team winning its third consecutive Paralympic title, becoming the first sled hockey team ever to accomplish this feat, and the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team winning 13 medals - up from four in 2014 - including seven in the Paralympic debut of banked slalom.
Tokyo Bound: U.S. Women’s Sitting Team secures spot at Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020
A semifinal win over Italy at the Sitting Volleyball World Championships back in July secured Team USA’s spot in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 as the top two finishers at the world championships qualified for Tokyo. While the U.S. left the world championships with a silver, the squad’s Games qualification marked the third straight quadrennial that the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team was the first USA Volleyball national team to qualify for the upcoming Paralympic and Olympic Games. The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team will enter Tokyo 2020 as defending gold medalists.
Madam President: Julie Dussliere appointed as APC President
Julie Dussliere, vice president of U.S. Paralympics, was appointed president of the Americas Paralympic Committee this spring at the APC Extraordinary General Assembly in Lima, Peru. “I’m honored to have been entrusted with this important position and dedicated to advancing the Paralympic Movement in the Americas,” said Dussliere. The APC is recognized as the sole regional representative of the Americas region within the worldwide Paralympic Movement. Dussliere was most recently the body’s vice president and was appointed after the sole candidate for the position did not receive a majority of affirmative votes from the established quorum of the General Assembly.
Mr. T: #IPityTheFoolwhodontwatchtheParalympics
The one and only Mr. T was glued to his television screen back in March as he could not get enough of the 2018 Winter Games. He expressed his passion for the Games via social media and brought cheering for the stars and stripes to a whole new hashtag. “If you want to be a loser, then do not watch the winter Paralympics.. it’s not for you! But, if you want to be a winner, then watch the Paralympics. Those incredible Athletes will Motivate you, Encourage you, and Inspire you. #Paralympics #IPityTheFoolwhodontwatchtheParalympics” said Mr. T in a tweet. “That’s why I want to say thank you to all the Paralympians! They are true role models to me. God bless them! #Thankyou #paralympics #rolemodels”. Needless to say, Team USA has a new superfan.
A Masterful 2018: Oksana Masters selected as Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year
The Women’s Sports Foundation named Oksana Masters its Sportswoman of the Year in October, capping off an incredible year for the eight-time Paralympic medalist. She became just the second Paralympian in history to win the individual athlete award following swimmer Erin Popovich in 2005. “She was the first and to be the second behind someone like her, who is so iconic and achieved so much, and for the Women’s Sports Foundation to recognize a Paralympian made me so speechless,” Masters said. Masters won five medals at PyeongChang 2018, including her first gold. Despite battling through an elbow injury sustained just prior to the Games, Masters took gold in the 1.5-kilometer sprint classic sitting and the 5 km sitting event in cross-country skiing as well as silver medals in both the 6 km sitting and 12.5 km sitting events in biathlon. She also earned bronze in the sitting cross-country 12 km.
First Things First: Romanchuk dazzles in Chicago and New York City marathons
Daniel Romanchuk checked off two significant firsts in the marathon circuit this fall, winning the Chicago Marathon for his first-career major victory and following that with a New York City Marathon win, the first U.S. man in history to take the top podium spot. All of this at only 20 years old. The Maryland native held off Paralympic marathon champion Marcel Hug in the Windy City, finishing at 1:31.34 with Hug coming in at 1:31.35. One month later he became the first U.S. man to win the New York City Marathon in the 18-year history of the men’s wheelchair event. Romanchuk crossed the finish line at 1:36.21, besting Hug once again. “A lot of things have been going right and coming together in the last year,” Romanchuk said. “The coaching, the training… This is an amazing experience to win two major marathons in a row. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Quad Goals: USA Triathlon adds three athletes to USA Paratriathlon Resident Team in Colorado Springs
USA Triathlon announced its roster for the 2019 USA Paratriathlon Resident Team in November, adding three new athletes to the current resident team. Melissa Stockwell, Kendall Gretsch, and Kyle Coon will join current resident team athletes Allysa Seely, Howie Sanborn, and Hailey Danz at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Stockwell earned a bronze medal in paratriathlon’s debut at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and is a three-time ITU Paratriathlon world champion. A U.S. Army veteran, Stockwell was the first female American soldier in history to lose a limb in the Iraq War when serving in Baghdad in 2004. Gretsch maintained an undefeated streak in elite ITU paratriathlon competition from June 2014-July 2018, collecting three world titles, four national titles and two ITU World Paratriathlon Event victories. She is also a winter Paralympian, claiming two gold medals in biathlon and cross-country skiing at the 2018 Winter Games. Coon has been a triathlete since 2015, but is relatively new to elite ITU competition. In 2018, he collected a silver medal in the men’s PTVI division at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup and placed fourth at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships.
Hammer Time: Sarah Hammer named U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team head coach
U.S. Paralympics Cycling announced four-time Olympic medalist Sarah Hammer as its head coach this past February, bringing a plethora of knowledge, experience, and competitive intensity to Team USA. Hammer won silver in both the women’s omnium and team pursuit in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2016, and has 15 world championship medals to her name. Hammer is no stranger to Para-cycling, having worked with the team as a contract coach since 2017 and also having trained with numerous Para-cyclist after moving to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in 2013. “We do the same training and have the same intensity and the same will to win,” she said. “It’s an honor to get to work with them.”