America’s Paralympians

AP551540399707_AmDivAction during a U.S.–South Korea ice sledge hockey match at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia

The Winter Paralympic Games, the pinnacle of international competition among athletes with physical disabilities, took place March 7–16 in Sochi, Russia. “Reaching the Impossible” was the theme of the quadrennial event, which was held at the same site as the 2014 Winter Olympics in February (para- in Paralympics stands for “parallel”).

Having won 96 gold medals going into the competition, the USA trailed only Norway (134 gold medals) and Austria (102) in the medal count since the Winter Paralympics began nearly four decades ago. In addition to gold medals, mostly in alpine skiing, Americans had also won 97 silver and 68 bronze medals for a total of 261 at the Winter Paralympics prior to this year. As the 2014 Winter Paralympics came to a close, the Team USA delegation had captured 18 more medals, including two golds. One gold medal was for ice sledge (sled) hockey, as the USA defeated Russia to become the first nation to win back-to-back Paralympics titles in this sport. Russia, the host country of the Games, ran away in the medal count, earning 30 gold medals, and 80 overall—more than the next five countries combined.

The American contingent was the world’s largest with 80 athletes. Its members have overcome physical challenges ranging from visual impairments to amputated limbs. The Paralympics, which features athletes with physical disabilities, is a different event from the Special Olympics, which is for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Of all Olympic competitions, the Winter Paralympics are the most technologically advanced. Fascinating advances in the melding of human and machine enable the athleticism of many of the competitors. But the most impressive advances are still those of the human spirit that transform the impossible into possibility.

Image credit: © AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Related Links

  • Team USA
    Visit the official website of Team USA and read Paralympians’ biographies; includes both Summer and Winter athletes.
    (Source:; accessed March 14, 2014)
  • USA: 10 Facts on the Sochi 2014 Paralympics
    Facts about the history of Team USA going in to the Sochi Paralympics.
    (Source:; accessed March 14, 2014)
  • Sochi 2014: Paralympic Winter Games
    Visit the official website of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics.
    (Source:; accessed March 14, 2014)
  • The Winter Paralympics Are the World’s Best Showcase of Sports Technology
    Explore the wonders of the sports technology on display in the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics.
    (Source:, March 10, 2014)
  • Paralympic Games
    Learn more about the Paralympics, including the kinds of disabilities that athletes must overcome in order to compete.
    (Source: Wikipedia; accessed March 14, 2014)

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