Key athletes, storylines one year out from Winter Paralympics

OlympicTalk
·3 min read

Five storylines for the 2022 Winter Paralympics, one year out from the Opening Ceremony …

U.S.-Canada Hockey Rivalry
The U.S. hockey team eyes a fourth consecutive Paralympic title, which would match the hockey record for the Olympics or Paralympics. If the most recent Paralympics and world championship are any indication, it will be thrilling.

In the 2018 final, Declan Farmer scored a last-minute tying goal and then a golden goal to beat Canada. In the 2019 Worlds final, Brody Roybal, the PyeongChang tournament MVP, scored the golden goal in overtime, also against Canada.

Both Farmer and Roybal, plus stalwart goalie Steve Cash, are in the mix for the roster for Beijing.

Dual Summer/Winter Paralympians
The U.S. has a recent history of Paralympians doubling up, including Alana Nichols in wheelchair basketball, Alpine skiing and canoe; Tatyana McFadden in track and field and cross-country skiing; Oksana Masters in rowing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and cycling and Aaron Pike in track and field, biathlon and cross-country skiing.

More athletes are bidding to join that list with ambitious plans to compete in the Tokyo Games in August and September and the Beijing Games in March. Notably, hockey gold medalist Josh Sweeney and cross-country skiing gold medalist Kendall Gretsch, who are each triathlon hopefuls for Tokyo.

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Snowboarding Shift
The U.S.’ most successful sport by total medals in 2018 was easily snowboarding — 13 of its 36 medals and five of its 13 golds. But there will be fewer medal chances in Beijing. The women’s program was reduced from two classes per discipline to one class each for banked slalom and snowboard cross. The men still have three classes for each event.

Brenna Huckaby won banked slalom and snowboard cross in her Paralympic debut in 2018. Huckaby’s classification in 2018 was the one cut from the Paralympic program for 2022, but she said this week that she plans to race in Beijing under the revised, one-classification program.

Huckaby competed in PyeongChang 20 months after having daughter Lilah. She had second daughter Sloan in January 2020.

Brittani Coury, a banked slalom silver medalist in PyeongChang, is expected to return for Beijing after spending the pandemic in her other line of work — nursing.

Medal Standings
In 2018, the U.S. topped the overall- and gold-medal standings for the first time at a Winter Games since Albertville 1992. Russia, the top medal nation in 2006, 2010 and 2014, had a smaller athlete delegation that competed as neutrals due to the nation’s doping penalties.

The Russian Paralympic Committee was reinstated by the International Paralympic Committee in 2019, but the number of Russian athletes could again be limited in Beijing given the nation’s additional recent sanctions in international sport.

Host China dominated the last four Summer Paralympics, but it had zero Winter Games medals before taking wheelchair curling gold in 2018.

Legend’s Farewell
Canadian Brian McKeever is expected to compete at his sixth and final Winter Games in Beijing. McKeever, a 41-year-old cross-country skier, already has 17 medals, including 13 golds. If he repeats his haul from PyeongChang (three golds, one bronze), he will tie retired German Alpine skier Gerd Schoenfelder‘s male record for career Winter Olympic titles. It would take five total medals to tie Schoenfelder’s male record for medals of any color.

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Key athletes, storylines one year out from Winter Paralympics originally appeared on NBCSports.com