US Earns First Gold In A Day of Wins

photo by Katie Harris
photo by Katie Harris
Omar Bermejo starts his 15km Mens Standing Biathlon.

Written By Brian Rank

SOCHI, Russia – Team USA earned its first gold medal of the 2014 winter Paralympics with a stunning sweep of the first-ever Paralympic snowboarding event. Alpine skiing earned two slivers and a bronze and the biathlon team made a strong showing.

Team USA now has 16 medals comprised of one gold, seven silver and 8 bronze.

Below are recaps from the day’s events.

Alpine Skiing

Heath Calhoun won his first paralympic medal and a silver at that. He earned second in the sitting super-G after having a great third run that pulled him from fourth to second. Mark Bathum and guide Cade Yamamoto won silver in visually impaired super-G, their second medal of the Games.

“I’ll admit I was a little nervous coming into this because we had a lot of time to make up,” Bathum said. “I will say that we came out with the afterburners on and we were after it today.”

In the women’s super combined super-G event rescheduled from Wednesday, Stephanie Jallen took bronze in the standing category with a time of 2:23.13.

Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead won bronze in the visually impaired super-G

“It is nice to get our first medal of the week,” Umstead said. “I wish we had gone a little bit faster, but we did our best. We fought in the slalom where the conditions were a little intense, and we made it to the finish there. And to finish in third through the super combined was super nice.”

Jamie Stanton finished 13th in the men’s standing slalom.

Laurie Stevens did not compete today because of illness.

Snowboarding

It was a good day for the USA who earned bronze in the women’s competition and swepped the the men’s – earning the US its first gold medal of the paralympics. In an event riddled with crashes, team USA found its balance during the three-run snowboard-cross event. Filling the podium for the US were Evan Strong with gold, Michael Shea with silver, Keith Gabel with bronze for the men. And Amy Purdy with bronze for the women.

“Today is a dream,” Strong said. “I’m so ecstatic, I’m over the moon, I don’t even feel like my feet are on the ground right now. This course is super fun, you can generate a lot of speed, but it is super challenging. To be able to pull this [sweep] off is just a testimony to the United States’ training, to our coaches and what we’ve’ been working on all year long. The U.S. snowboard team, we’re all best friends, we all encourage each other and we want everybody to go faster. We are in love with our sport.”

Biathlon

The US finished the biathlon competitions for the week with multiple top-10 wins, showing a strong effort for the team.

Andy Soule finished fourth with a perfect shooting record for the race and the games overall, going 50 for 50.

“I just have to race within myself and not worry about what anyone else is doing because I can’t control it. I’ve put together a lot of good races in these Games,” he said.

Dan Cnossen finished 10th with a time of 48:27.8 – his best of the games.

“It’s a good takeaway for me because as a biathlete I am still developing,” Cnossen said. “Today I learned to focus on the skiing, ski hard when I can, but then relax in the range and to not do anything different.”

Omar Bermejo finished 17th and Kevin Burton placed 12th in the visually impaired 12 km race.

“I think I skied really well, missed six shots, so that could have used some improvement,” Burton said. “But I think this was probably one of my best races that I’ve had if not the best race I’ve had out here so far. I’m happy with it.“

In the 15 km event, Sean Halsted placed 11th, Jeremy Wagner, Aaron Pike and Travis Dodson  finished 18th, 19th and 21st, respectively.

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