Team USA continues to rack up medals in PyeongChang.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea—The rain began to fall on Thursday afternoon, turning to snow after midnight. The morning of the Friday March 16th Biathlon competition, the venue looked like an ideal winter wonderland postcard sent from Korea. A white layer of fresh unspoiled snow concealed the filthy, water-saturated base that the skiers would be traversing.
In this Paralympic Games, Team USA’s two most dominate women, Oksana Masters – four medals – and Kendall Gretsch – two medals – joined a field of 15 female sitting skiers to brave a cold, snow swirling start of the 12.5km Biathlon race. The women had a 5×2.5km course to ski and made four trips to the shooting range. Oksana Masters, LW12, shot a clean race today and just missed the gold medal by 18.8 seconds to Andrea Eskau, LW11, from Germany. The conditions were brutal for all the competitors. Gretsch fell short in this competition, finishing eighth.
“I cannot ask for anything more for myself at all. I’ve never cleaned a four-stage race ever for the five years I’ve been doing this,” Masters says. “I never considered myself as a biathlete, and now I can’t believe that it’s my second time on the podium for biathlon racing at the Paralympic Games.”
In the men’s category, Navy veteran Dan Cnossen from Topeka, Kan. did it again and claimed another silver medal, adding to his growing collection of four medals in PyeongChang. Three more competitors from the US entered the stadium with strong intentions. Andy Soule, LW12, two-time medalist in Pyeongchang finished ninth, and Aaron Pike, LW11.5 and four-time Paralympian in both Winter and Summer Games, finished sixth with a clean sweep of the targets and Ruslan Reiter.
PARA SNOWBOARDING – BANKED SLALOM
On Day six at the Jeongseon Alpine Center, the weather was cold and dark but the venue was bustling with people out to watch the world’s top para snowboarding athletes from around the world compete in Banked Slalom. Team USA was predicted to dominate the competition, and all predictions were correct. It was raining medals for Team USA in every category, for both men and women.
The Women’s LL1 category started strong with 22-year-old Brenna Huckaby winning her second gold medal here in PyeongChang. She had already secured the number one spot in Snowboard Cross earlier in the week. Amy Purdy took home bronze in Banked Slalom, even though she had to borrow a snowboard for the competition. In the LL2 category for Women, Brittani Couri won her first medal at the Paralympics. She had been inspired to compete in para snowboarding after first witnessing it in Sochi in 2014.
For the men, Mike Minor was jubilant and won gold in the SB-UL category. Team USA’s own Noah Elliot and Mike Shultz dominated in the SB- LL1 men’s category and took Gold and silver in spite of Shultz not finishing his second run. The same tenacity was seen with Evan Strong successfully making it to the podium with a silver medal after a disappointing experience in snowboard cross. It was an incredibly successful day for Team USA at Banked Slalom in PyeongChang.