US Paralympic Team Finishes Strong

March 21 marked the end of the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, BC. In all, the United States came away from the Games with 13 medals — four gold, five silver and four bronze.

Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the United States Olympics Committee, told O&P Business News that one of the major highlights of the Games was the U.S. sled hockey team’s gold-medal victory against Japan. This win came at the end of an action-packed tournament where members of the team did not give up one goal. Huebner attributes this to Steve Cash, from Overland, Mo., the young goaltender for the team whose “phenomenal” saves kept opposing teams from scoring throughout the Games.

Three years ago, the team partnered with USA Hockey to find talent, a move that resulted in several young players joining the team. Instantly, the team that had been one of the oldest in the tournament became one of the youngest, Huebner said.

“And they won gold,” he said. “It captured everything we’re looking to do for the movement in the United States, both winter and summer, which is aggressively develop programs to identify talent, get young kids involved in sport, and hopefully perform in the future at the Paralympic Games.”

Huebner said success such as this has sparked an increased awareness of and interest in the Paralympics in the United States.

The first U.S. medal of the Games went to Andy Soule from Pearland, Texas — a bronze for biathlon pursuit. The first Alpine medal, a silver, went to Stephani Victor, from Park City, Utah, for the slalom (sitting). Victor also took home a silver medal for women’s giant slalom (sitting) and a gold for the super combined (sitting).

Other medals in Alpine skiing included Mark Bathum from Seattle with a silver in downhill (visually impaired); Laurie Stephens from Wenham, Mass. with a silver medal in downhill (sitting); Danelle Umstead of Taos, N.M. with a bronze in downhill (visually impaired and a bronze in the super combined (visually impaired); and Alana Nichols of Farmington, N.M., who won the gold medal in the giant slalom (sitting), gold in women’s downhill (sitting), silver in the super G (sitting), and bronze in super combined (sitting).

“We are just beginning the process of identifying new talent for the future,” Huebner said. “It’s probably the most important thing for us to be successful at the Games.”

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