From Amy Purdy to Oksana Masters and Mike Schultz, the Winter Paralympics have produced some of America’s best-known and most successful amputee athletes. This year’s US team combines a veteran core with a new generation of stars.
Here’s a quick guide to limb-different Americans who’ll be chasing medals in Beijing. For a deeper dive, visit Amplitude’s Paralympics website at livingwithamplitude.com/paralympics.
Garrett Geros, snowboard (LL2): After establishing his bona fides with two medals at a World Cup event in December 2021, Geros gives the US an outside chance at a podium sweep in the LL2 slalom.
Katlyn Maddry, snowboard (LL2): The first-time Paralympian finished a surprising fourth in the slalom at the World Championships in January and is ranked 10th in the world.
Malik Jones, sled hockey: Just 19 years old, Jones impressed his veteran teammates last October by scoring the go-ahead goal in Team USA’s 4-1 win over archrival Canada.
Ravi Drugan, alpine skiing (LW12-2): A veteran competitor (and former medalist) in the X Games, Drugan enters his first Paralympic Games as Team USA’s top-ranked sitting slalom specialist.
Dani Aravich, Nordic skiing (LW8): Aravich debuted as a sprinter in the Summer Paralympics just six months ago. She’s among the handful of two-way athletes on Team USA.
Chairmen of the Board
At the 2018 Paralympics, Team USA won half of the golds—and nearly half of all the medals—in snowboarding. US riders are so dominant that, for many, the main obstacle to the top of the podium is a teammate. Here are two of the most compelling head-to-head battles.
Banked Slalom SB-LL1
Noah Elliott and Mike Schultz finished one-two in the slalom in PyeongChang, with Elliott edging out Schultz for the gold medal. But Schultz turned the tables in the boardercross, taking the gold over Elliott. Four years later, not much has changed: At the World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, in January, the friendly rivals (both left above-knee amputees) again went one-two in the slalom, repeating their medal positions from 2018. Elliott, ranked #1 in the world, remains the favorite heading into Beijing.
For the third consecutive Paralympics, Keith Gabel and Evan Strong will go helmet-to-helmet and elbow-to-elbow in this high-contact race. Both medaled in 2014 (gold for Strong, bronze for Gabel), and Gabel made it back to the podium in 2018 as a silver medalist. Strong has reclaimed the #1 world ranking and reinforced it with a gold medal at the World Championships in January. Gabel is currently ranked #3.
More Than a Game
From disrupted training schedules to canceled competitions to outright infection, every Paralympian on the planet has been touched by COVID. But none has confronted the virus as directly as Brittani Coury. A registered nurse at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, she set everything aside in March 2020 to serve as a frontline caregiver, treating patients who were suffering the most severe effects of the virus.
A silver-medal snowboarder in 2018 with gold-medal aspirations for 2022, Coury lost months of training time while she battled the pandemic. “I value human life over any sporting event,” she said at the time. “They needed people to help in the COVID tent, and I jumped right on it.”
Despite losing nearly an entire season’s worth of competition, Coury is still ranked fifth in the world in banked slalom (LL2 classification). And she proved that she’s still a threat to medal in Beijing by finishing second in her signature event at a World Cup competition last December. But, she says, “It’s not all about glory and silver and gold medals. If I can impact one person’s life in a positive way, then it’s all worth it.”
The US sled hockey team is going for its fourth straight Paralympic gold (and fifth overall) in Beijing. Here are five things to know about Team USA:
- Fifteen of the 20 players on the Paralympic roster are amputees.
- Only one active player—defenseman Josh Pauls—was on the 2010, 2014, and 2018 championship rosters. Four other amputees (goalie Jen Lee and top scorers Brody Roybal, Rico Roman, and Declan Farmer) played for the ’14 and ’18 gold-medal winners.
- The best time to watch a live Team USA match is on March 7, when they play Russia at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. The rest of their games (including the medal contests) take place overnight or in the early-morning hours.
- Both the US and Canada are in Group A during the preliminary round, the first time the rivals have shared a division since the advent of group play in 2006.
- The US has won gold in both Paralympics and three of four World Championships since 2014. The only blemish in their record: a 4-1 loss to Canada in the finals of the 2017 World Championships.
In the history of the Winter Paralympics, the United States has more medals in alpine skiing than any other nation. But it’s been slim pickings lately for Team USA. In the last two Winter Games, the American paraski team has only claimed one gold medal, and its overall total of six medals in 2018 was the lowest in history.These young amputee skiers have a chance to win their first medals in 2022 and get the US team back on an upward trajectory.
Thomas Walsh (LW4): America’s best bet for a medal breakout, Walsh excels in all five alpine disciplines (slalom, giant slalom, super-G, downhill, and combined). He finished fifth in the slalom at PyeongChang, won two bronze medals at the World Championships the following year, and took third in the slalom.
Jesse Keefe (LW4): This 17-year-old put himself on the radar last spring by winning two events (slalom and giant slalom) at the US Nationals, outracing half a dozen 2018 Paralympians in the process. At the World Championships earlier this year, he led all US racers in the super-G.