U.S. finishes ‘22 Paralympics with golds in cross country, hockey

Ukrainian-born skier Oksana Masters, who has competed for the United States in six straight...
Ukrainian-born skier Oksana Masters, who has competed for the United States in six straight Paralympics, lead off Sunday's race.(Team USA)
Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 1:45 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - During the closing hours of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, two American teams saved their best for last. While the sled hockey team’s 5-0 win against Canada was not a tremendous surprise, the gold earned in cross country’s mixed team relay event may have been one of the biggest shocks from the last nine days.

Ukrainian-born skier Oksana Masters, who has competed for the United States in six straight Paralympics, lead off Sunday’s race. In this week’s sitting events (for athletes with limited trunk movement), she won two golds in biathlon (sprint, long distance). In this particular race, Masters was going up against male competitors from other countries. She was in third position before she handing off to Paralympic newcomer Sydney Peterson (6:40.09).

The standing skier from Lake Elmo, Minn. made her Paralympic debut this week with a silver in cross country’s long distance, followed with a bronze in the sprint (standing skiers often compete with limb impairments, cerebral palsy). As the U.S. team strategically started the race with both females in the first two legs, they remained in the top three (14:03.7). Up next was sitting skier and former Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen.

The Afghanistan war-veteran was one of the biggest breakthrough names four years ago in PyeongChang, South Korea, where he earned six medals- including a biathlon gold. Fast forward to Beijing, and he was still seeking his first medal of 2022. At the 20:31.8 point of the race, the United States stayed in medal contention- being in the fourth spot. This was when visually-impaired skier Jake Adicoff took over, and capped off one of the best anchor legs of these Paralympics.

With the help of guide, best friend, and roommate Sam Wood, the Sun Valley, Idaho-native punctuated the best weeks of his career. Four years after winning cross-country silver (men’s middle distance), he added to his collection with silvers in long distance and sprint. In all three races, he finished second to Nordic legend Brian McKeever of Canada, who is retiring after these Games with sixteen golds on his resume.

The Americans’ final time of 25:59.3 was a full 26 ahead of host nation China, who took silver. Thirty seconds later, Team Canada rounded out the podium for bronze.

Half an hour later, there was much less tension and drama at Beijing National Indoor Stadium, which is where the United States sled hockey team dominated Canada 5-0- the same score as their opening match eight days ago. This win gives the Red, White and Blue Paralympic gold for the fourth-straight time.

Near the halfway point of the first period (6:52), team leader Declan Farmer sent the puck into the net for the 1-0 advantage. That lead would soon double, as Farmer’s teammate and close friend Brody Roybal scored 25 seconds later. Both goals came while Canada actually had the “power play,” a five-on-four advantage which came after a foul from Jack Wallace. Early into the second period (12:39) , Roybal punished Canadian goalkeeper Dominic LaRocque once more as the reigning champs took a 3-0 lead. Minutes later (6:09), defender Josh Pauls powered in the fourth goal of the contest. The fifth-and-final score came in the third period (9:03), when Farmer sounded off the siren for the second time in the game.

One of the team’s most valuable players of these Paralympics has been Jen Lee of San Antonio, a graduate of the University of Texas, who replaced long-time goalkeeper Steve Cash. Over the course of four games, Lee allowed just one goal- while his teammates scored 30. A pop culture reference was made in the first period of the game-broadcasted on the USA Network. Jen’s helmet in Sunday’s final included a sketch of Julie “The Cat” Gaffney- a popular fictitious goalkeeper from Disney’s, “D2: The Mighty Ducks”. Earlier this week, Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine, who played Gaffney in the 1994 film, reached out to wish Lee and his teammates good luck.

Team USA ends the 2022 Winter Paralympics with six gold, 11 silver, and three bronze medals.

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