By Brian Rank
SOCHI, Russia – There was fresh snow on the slopes and fresh hopes for the wheelchair curling team during a Wednesday that marked strong performances and two medals for the US – one bronze and one silver. Team USA now has four silver medals and four bronze. Below are recaps from the day’s events.
Laurie Stephens racked up her third medal with a third-place win in the sitting slalom, keeping on the in the third through both runs of the event, finishing about four seconds behind gold winner Anna Forster of Germany.
Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead finished fourth in the visually impaired slalom. Staci Mannella and guide Kim Seevers finished sixth; it was their Paralympics debut.
“I am very relieved to get my first run done,” Mannella said. “I can really only move forward from here, and that’s what we are going to do in the giant slalom. The first run I was super nervous, the second run I ran closer to what I’m capable of, I think for the giant slalom I will chill out and really have a race like I am capable of having.”
Melanie Schwartz finished 10th in the in the women’s standing class while Allison Jones and Stephanie Jallen fell on the first run and were unable to complete the course.
Tatyana McFadden landed the silver medal in the 1 kilometer sitting sprint, her first of the games and the second from the cross country team. A time of 2:45.7 put her just 0.1 behind first place finisher Mariann Marthinsen from Norway. McFadden now has earned medals in both the winter and the summer games where she competes in wheelchair racing.
“I can’t even believe it. My main goal was just to come in and make it to the final,” McFadden said. “I am just so happy and so proud.”
Teammate Oksana Masters came in fourth. Both McFadden and Masters are both competing in the cross-country event for the first time.
The men’s team gave a strong performance today with Andy Soule and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen making it to the 1 km sitting cross-country final. Soule finished fifth and Cnossen came in sixth at 2:38.0 and 2:39.9 respectively.
Two wins continue Team USA’s medal hopes after moving close to missing the play-offs on Saturday. A 10-2 win over China and 8-3 over Sweden put the US in a tie for fourth place.
The round-robin continues on Thursday for the US with a match against third-ranked Great Britain, which will decide if the team has a spot in the play-offs. If team USA loses on Thursday, they have a possibility of playing in a tie-breaker on Friday depending on the outcome of the other games during the day.
About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports. Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for wheelchair-using adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.