Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games: “Breaking the Ice”

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US Paralympic Sled Hockey Team

Photograph of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team courtesy of David Rotter, Scheck & Siress, Chicago, Illinois, who fit 12 members of the team with custom sled hockey buckets.

The 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, which were held March 7–16, have gone on the record books as the biggest Winter Games in history. About 550 para-athletes from 45 countries, including 72 from the United States, arrived in Sochi and competed in 72 medal events in five sports. This year, snowboard cross made its Paralympic debut, and the Games received more broadcast coverage around the world than any previous Winter Paralympics to date.

The opening ceremony was titled “Breaking the Ice,” to honor the strength of the human spirit and explain the importance of changing perceptions and promoting inclusiveness in society, according to the Sochi 2014 website. “You have here superb sporting venues to express your amazing talents and live up to the Paralympic values of determination and courage, inspiration, and equality,” International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven told the athletes during his opening ceremony speech. “Together you are the catalysts for change. United as one, you have the ability to change perceptions and alter attitudes like no other.”

WHEATIES box featuring snowboarder Evan Strong

Paralympic snowboard cross gold medalist Evan Strong, who is part of Team Wheaties, will appear on an upcoming Wheaties™ cereal box. He will become the first para-athlete to do so. Photograph courtesy of General Mills.

The Russian Federation collected 80 medals—the most of any other participating country: 30 gold, 28 silver, and 22 bronze. Ukraine came in second with 25 medals: five gold, nine silver, and 11 bronze. The United States came in third with 18 medals: two gold, seven silver, and nine bronze.

Among the highlights of U.S. medal winners was the 17-player roster of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. The Americans made Paralympic history on March 15 by being the first team to receive back-to-back gold medals. The United States beat Russia in a 1–0 match. Brody Roybal had his Paralympic debut as the youngest member of the team. The 15-year-old was born with bilateral transfemoral amputations. He scored two goals in the preliminary round in the team’s 5–0 defeat against Italy. Declan Farmer also had his Paralympic debut this season; he is the second-youngest team member. A 16-year-old high school sophomore who was born with bilateral amputations: a left transfemoral and a right transtibial— Farmer has been playing sled hockey since he was nine years old. The two goals he scored in the play-off semifinals against Canada ensured the United States a seat in the gold medal game.

Another Paralympic highlight came in the men’s snowboard cross competition as the United States swept the podium. Evan Strong, who has a left transtibial amputation, snagged a gold medal with a winning time of 51.62 seconds. Strong was ranked number one in the world entering the competition. He was joined on the podium by fellow Americans Mike Shea, silver, and Keith Gabel, bronze. Amy Purdy took bronze in the women’s snowboard cross competition; she was the only athlete with bilateral amputations who competed in that event.

list of medalists

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