US Debuts Strong On Snow And Ice

US Coach Kevin Jardine discusses strategy with US downhill racer Tyler Walker before his run
Photo by Michael Clubine – US Coach Kevin Jardine discusses strategy with US downhill racer Tyler Walker before his run

Written By Brian Rank

SOCHI, Russia – The first day of competition at the Paralympics swung into action with events in Wheelchair Curling, Sled Hockey, Alpine Skiing and Biathlon, the latter two had medal events. Team USA came out strong on the slopes, earning a silver and two bronze in women’s alpine skiing. In sled hockey, the US dealt Italy a dominating 5-1 decision, while in wheelchair curling team USA slipped to 0-2 against Korea. Two fourth place finishes rounded out a solid performance for US sitting biathlon.

The Russian Federation lead the day in medals with 12 total including four gold. The US earned three total, one silver and two bronze.

Below are recaps from today’s events.

Wheelchair Curling
After a promising pre-season, team USA finished the first day of a nine-game round robin with a disappointing 6-4 loss to Slovakia in round one and a 9-5 loss to South Korea in round two. The US is still hopeful for success later in the week for a place in the semi-finals on Saturday.

“It wasn’t a really great day for us,” team member Jimmy Joseph said. “I’d rather be 2-0 instead of 0-2, but that’s the way the stone turns. We’re not out of it yet. I’ve seen teams come back from 0-4. Everyone’s not going to win every game. We’re going to have a great, great rest of the week.”

Biathlon
Two US sit-skiers earned a solid fourth-place finish today. Andy Soule made perfect scores in shooting but was 2.9 seconds shy of Japan’s Kozo Kubo at 21:48:5. Okansa Masters made her Winter Paralympic debut by wowing her teammates as she nearly earned bronze at her first event. She finished just 3.6 seconds short of a place on the podium at 19:43:2.

“I am very happy with my race today. This was a really good surprise to start the Games for me,” she said.

Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiers won all of team USA’s three medals on Saturday. Alana Nicols won silver in the women’s sitting race and Laurie Stephens took bronze. Allison Jonze earned bronze in the women’s standing class and Danielle Umstead also got bronze in the women’s visually impaired competition.

The men’s sitting class event saw multiple crashes on the course including Tyler Walker who was transported off the slope by helicopter. He was later listed as in stable condition.

Sled Hockey
The US sled hockey team made it clear that they are the team to beat with a 5-1 routing of Italy Saturday. The defending Paralympic champions dominated throughout the game, allowing Brody Roybal to score two goals and goaltenders Steve Cash and Jen Lee to make 11 stops overall.

Team USA continues its quest for a consecutive gold against South Korea today at 8:30 am ET.

Other News
Jon Kreamelmeyer, the retired Paralympic Nordic Skiing coach, was inducted into the Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame. He served as coach from 1998 to 2006, helping his athletes win 11 medals.

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