Texans to the 2022 Winter Paralympics: Three Athletes to Catch
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - For many around the globe, the extinguishing of the Olympic cauldron marks the end. For others, it’s one step closer to their time in the international spotlight- the Winter Paralympics.
While the United States is sending over 67 athletes to compete overseas, three hail from the Lone Star State- just like last month’s Olympics.
The Paralympian closest to Lubbock is also one of the last to have their ticket punched. Weeks ago, snowboarder Michael Spivey, a 1999 graduate of Abilene High School, wasn’t so sure if he would be making the trip across the Pacific Ocean. On February 17, he finally received news that he would be the twelfth-and-final member of the U.S. Para Snowboard team.
Spivey is a retired Seargent from the United States Marine Corps, who served in Afghanistan. In December 2010, he lost his left arm (below the elbow) when an improvised explosive device went off. During his time in rehabilitation, he found snowboarding and has since become a two-time Paralympian. At January’s World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, the Big Country-native had top-ten finishes in banked slalom and snowboard cross, both of which will be contested in Beijing. His performance caught the attention of the World Para Snowboard and the International Paralympic Committee.
Another Texan with a similar story is Josh Sweeney of Live Oak, Texas. Much like Spivey, Sweeney was a U.S. Marine Sgt. in Afghanistan, whose life was changed from an IED explosion. His occurred 14 months before. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a Purple Heart. In rehab, Sweeney channeled his intensity into something else- sled hockey, a sport that sent him to the top of the Paralympic podium during the Sochi Games of 2014.
In the last eight years, Sweeney has traded in his hockey sticks for snow skis and will hit the slopes in cross-country skiing. One of his biggest competitors will be former Navy Seal Dan Cnossen, who collected six medals during the PyeongChang Paralympics in 2018.
Not too far from Sweeney is retired U.S. Army veteran Jen Lee, who lives in San Antonio. Lee, is one of the goalkeepers for the United States sled hockey team. Lee graduated from the University of Texas in 2018 with a degree in sports management. Following a motorcycle crash in 2009, Lee had to have his left leg amputated soon after. At the Brooke Army Medical Center, Lee went on to discover his favorite sport. This month, he will try to become a three-time gold medalist.
Four years after he was Sweeney’s teammate in 2014, Lee also went to snag another gold in 2018. The win came a year after the loss of their long-time coach Jeff Sauer, who died from pancreatic cancer. That same year, Lee graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in sports management.
The 2022 Winter Paralympics begin Friday with the Opening Ceremony. NBC Universal will be providing a record 230+ hours of coverage, including three hours of prime time on KCBD-TV.
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