- Oksana Masters and Andy Soule win the first Paralympic gold medals of their career, placing first in the sitting classification of the cross-country sprint.
- Dan Cnossen takes home bronze in the men’s sitting class of the cross-country sprint.
- The U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team now has 11 medals, including five gold, three silver and three bronze.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) and Andy Soule (Kerrville, Texas/Army) won long-awaited Paralympic gold medals in a thrilling day of action that saw Team USA win three medals in the cross-country sprint at Alpensia Biathlon Center.
Masters, who already owned five Paralympic medals (two silver and three bronze) in rowing and Nordic skiing, grabbed the title of Paralympic champion for the first time in her career. Overcoming a serious injury to her arm just over three weeks ago and suffering a fall that forced her out of the previous day’s middle-distance biathlon, Masters prevailed in dominating fashion through all three rounds of the sprint. Masters entered the stadium with daylight between her and the rest of the field, and she glanced over her shoulder to soak in the moment as she made her final strides towards gold. Masters crossed the line of the women’s sitting 1.1-kilometer sprint with more than two seconds to spare over runner-up Andrea Eskau of Germany.
It was a tight finish in the men’s sitting sprint final. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas/Navy) had a strong lead heading into the stadium; however, three competitors pulled alongside him and made it an even race for the line. Soule unleashed a powerful surge and leaned at the line to win his first Paralympic gold medal. Soule crossed the line of the 1.1km sprint in 3:31.4, an identical time with Dzmitry Loban of Belarus, but Soule was awarded the win in a photo finish. Cnossen finished in the bronze-medal spot, only four-tenths of a second back.
Military veterans Soule and Cnossen have had an extremely successful Games with six medals between the two of them. Following the September 11 attacks, Soule decided to serve his country in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan where he sustained his injury. Cnossen served as a Navy SEAL who was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor from the Secretary of the Navy for his service in combat.
In the men’s visually impaired final, Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho) and guide Sawyer Kesselheim (Bozeman, Montana) were initially awarded the bronze medal but were relegated to fourth place for a technique violation.
U.S. Paralympic Nordic Team Medal Count: 11
Gold: 5 - Kendall Gretsch (cross-country 12km, biathlon sprint); Oksana Masters (cross-country sprint); Dan Cnossen (biathlon sprint); Andy Soule (cross-country sprint)
Silver: 3 - Dan Cnossen (biathlon middle-distance, cross-country 15km); Oksana Masters (biathlon sprint)
Bronze: 3 - Dan Cnossen (cross-country sprint); Oksana Masters (cross-country 12km); Andy Soule (biathlon middle-distance)
TODAY’S CROSS-COUNTRY SPRINT FINISHES
1st: Andy Soule (Kerrville, Texas/Army/men’s sitting), Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky./women’s sitting)
3rd: Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan./Navy/men’s sitting)
4th: Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho/men’s visually impaired)/Sawyer Kesselheim (Bozeman, Mont./guide)
Semifinal Round: Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill./women’s sitting); Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minn./men’s sitting)
Qualifying Round: Joy Rondeau (Granby, Colo./women’s sitting); Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Air Force/men’s sitting); Jeremy Wagner (Nānākuli, Hawaii/Army/men’s sitting);Grace Miller (Palmer, Alaska/women’s standing); Ruslan Reiter (Manchester, Maine/men’s standing); Mia Zutter (Sun Prairie, Wis./women’s visually impaired)/Kristina Trygstad-Saari (Bozeman, Mont./guide)
How she pushed herself back on the course through her injury to win gold...
“I have no idea. I did not believe this would happen. I knew that I wasn’t going to let yesterday be my last race. I couldn’t believe it, but at the same time, I knew I had it in me to dig deep a couple more times. I could not have done this without the USOC medical staff.”
On how the gold medal feels…
“I can’t believe it. I literally was starting to think this day would never happen. I did not want to give up. I fought for that gold medal. I’m so excited to bring home a medal for Team USA.”
On what the final stretch of the race was like...
“That was an interesting race, an interesting tactical race. I chased the whole way. I don’t think it necessarily hurt me to chase that much, it actually helped with a little bit of wind break. I think a good, tight tuck coming down the final hill put me in a natural line, and I knew I had a shot at a good sprint out. This is an incredible group to compete with. That kind of a finish...that’s what sprinting is all about.”
What it means to finally get his first gold during his third Paralympics…
“It means so much. It feels so incredible. I couldn’t do it without incredible teammates pushing me all the time, and without incredible coaching and technical staff. I think it speaks to a great team effort that has really paid off for us.”
On his race strategy and the home straightaway…
“I definitely lost a little gas in the final stretch. My strategy was to tuck in behind the Belarus athlete in the beginning and then sprint over the bridge and try to hang on. Andy had such an awesome race. This is the second day in a row we’ve had two U.S. men on the podium which is just phenomenal.”
Competition will resume on Friday, after a training day on Thursday, with the men’s and women’s long-distance biathlon. Skiing starts at 10:00 a.m. KST (Friday, March 16)/9:00 p.m. EDT (Thursday, March 15).
NBC Olympics is providing 250 hours of coverage from PyeongChang, including 94 hours on television, which is NBC Olympics’ most ever for a Paralympic Winter Games. View the complete TV and streaming schedule here.