COLORADO SPRINGS – U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, announced Wednesday that 16 Nordic skiing athletes and two guides have been nominated to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team to compete in biathlon and cross-country skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, March 7-16. The nominations are subject to approval of the USOC.
After sending six athletes to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Team USA’s Nordic roster will nearly triple in size with 12 men, four women and two guides for visually impaired athletes.
“We are thrilled to bring such a large team of athletes and professional staff to Sochi,” said John Farra, high performance director for U.S. Paralympics Nordic skiing. “We have made a concerted effort to introduce more athletes to the sports of cross-country skiing and biathlon over the past two-and-a-half seasons, and this growth is a sign of our success in keeping many of them excited about our Nordic sports and working toward becoming internationally competitive.
“In addition to building the numbers with new developing athletes, we have also focused many resources to help our top athletes get close to hitting the podium. Great focus was given towards equipment design for sit skiers, race ski selection and preparation in partnership with the U.S. Biathlon Association, and access to the best training camps and competitions around the world.”
Three athletes return from the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, including Andy Soule (San Antonio, Texas) who won the first-ever U.S. medal in the Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games in the biathlon with his bronze in the men’s 2.4-kilometer race. Soule will be joined by his 2010 teammates Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash.) and Monica Bascio (Evergreen, Colo.).
Bascio boasts the most Winter Games experience, with Sochi marking her third Winter Games and fourth Games overall. Having just recently retired from cycling, Bascio is one of three athletes who medaled at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Other cross-over athletes include Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.) and Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.). McFadden is a 10-time Paralympic medalist in track and field, while Masters partnered with Rob Jones to become the first Americans to win a Paralympic rowing medal in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls event with their third place finish.
More than half of the athletes nominated to the men’s team are military veterans: Omar Bermejo (Marines/Grand Rapids, Mich.), Kevin Burton (Navy/Boulder, Colo.), Travis Dodson (Marines/Deming, N.M.), Halsted (Air Force/Spokane, Wash.), Bryan Price (Army/ Belton, Mo.), Soule (Army) and Jeremy Wagner (Army Reserves/Nanakuli, Hawaii). Lieutenant Commander Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan.) is the only active duty member of the team as he currently serves with the United States Navy.
Competition for Nordic skiing will take place March 8-16 with March 13 scheduled as an off-day. Nordic skiing includes both biathlon and cross-country skiing, both of which have three events contested at the Games, in addition to two cross-country relays.
The majority of the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team will compete in both sports. A list of events entered by each athlete will be available in February.
The USOC and NBC Olympics have partnered to provide an unprecedented level of coverage to the Paralympic Winter Games. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine to air 50 hours of television, starting on March 7 with the Opening Ceremony. It will be followed by daily coverage of all five Paralympic sports in the Sochi program, before the Games’ Closing Ceremony is broadcast on March 16. In addition to the unprecedented U.S. television coverage, the USOC and streaming sponsors BMW, BP, Citi, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Procter & Gamble and The Hartford will provide live online coverage at TeamUSA.org.
U.S. Paralympic Team nominees for alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sled hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling will be finalized by the USOC no later than Feb. 21, the deadline to submit Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games delegation rosters to the International Paralympic Committee. Selection procedures and dates can be found at TeamUSA.org/ParalympicGames/.