Among the breakout athletes of the 2018 Paralympics, American Dan Cnossen left PyeongChang with six medals. The avid runner was introduced to Nordic skiing in late 2010 after attending a training camp in Montana, and he fell in love with the sport's peacefulness and connection with nature. In 2009, while serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL lieutenant commander, he stepped on an IED and had to have both legs amputated just above the knee.
As part of our preparation for the 2022 Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to multiple athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the snow or ice. Here’s what we found out about Cnossen:
Dan Cnossen, Nordic Skiing
Events: Biathlon (Sitting: 7.5km, 12.5km, 15km) and Cross-Country Skiing (Sitting: 1.1km sprint, 7.5km, 15km)
Birthplace: Topeka, Kansas
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas
Residence: Natick, Mass.
Past Games: 2014, 2018
|BTH 7.5km Sitting||14th||🥇 (Video)|
|BTH 12.5km Sitting||11th||🥈|
|BTH 15km Sitting||10th||🥈|
|CCS 1.1km Sprint Sitting||6th||🥉|
|CCS 7.5km (10km*) Sitting||10th*||🥈|
|CCS 15km Sitting||13th||🥈|
Family & Upbringing
Tell us about your family.
"My mother lives in Kansas and my sister lives in NYC. My mother is retired and my sister is a nurse practitioner at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital."
Who do you live with?
How influential were your parents in your athletic aspirations?
"They were very supportive and continue to be."
Where did you attend college?
"Yes - U.S. Naval Academy, BS English, 2002. I was on the Naval Academy triathlon team."
What is your other job?
"Public speaker and resilience specialist for O2X. Public speaking balances very well with training."
"I served in the U.S. Navy as a SEAL officer from 2002-15. I was injured in combat in Afghanistan in 2009 and subsequently turned to Paralympic sports."
Top spots in your hometown?
"Going into Boston's North and South End; Cambridge and Somerville in Massachusetts."
How has your hometown shaped who you are today?
"Growing up on a fifth-generation farm in Kansas I learned to appreciate being outside, and this is one aspect of cross-country skiing that I really enjoy."
Where else have you lived?
"I've lived in San Diego, California, while in the U.S. Navy and consider it a second home. Many of my friends still live there."
Lifestyle & Training
Typical training day?
"I wake up around 6:45 in the morning and usually train from 9-11 a.m., followed by a potential second training session in the afternoon, 4-5 p.m."
How much time to you train and sleep?
"I train two to three hours per day on average and sleep eight to nine hours."
What's your favorite workout?
"I really like to do interval training, higher intensity and shorter duration."
What's the most grueling workout you've ever done?
"Going through Hell Week in BUD/S training to become a Navy SEAL."
Surprising thing regarding training for Paralympics?
"The majority of training over the course of a year for a cross-country skier is actually not done on snow."
Any out-of-the-ordinary or experimental training?
"I try to do a lot of surfing and ocean paddling, which is unusual for cross-country skiing cross-training."
Experience during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I was at my home in Natick, Massachusetts. Gym closures were the biggest obstacle to my training."
Have you ever been seriously injured?
"In 2009 in Afghanistan I stepped on a buried bomb during a nighttime assault mission and this resulted in the amputation of both of my legs above the knees. It took about two years of surgery, rehab and physical therapy to recover."
Any nutrition plan? (e.g., calories, meals)
"I try to eat healthy and my main focus is on portion control and vegetables."
"Spaghetti, fruit, and for dessert apple pie."
Reflection & Paralympics
Earliest memory of playing sport?
"In 2010 I attended my first training camp on snow in West Yellowstone, Montana. I was 30 at the time. I loved being able to glide through the woods, being in nature again."
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics or Paralympics?
"I never thought I'd be in this position. I remember watching Dan Jansen at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games."
Specific breakthrough moment?
"No real moment in particular, as it's been a steady and gradual progression over the years."
What would you change about your sport?
"I wish more Americans of all backgrounds could be exposed to cross-country skiing, since it's a great way to exercise and experience nature."
Who is your coach?
"Gary Colliander. We've been working together since 2017. He's a very laid back person which works well with my personality."
Most interesting teammate?
"Oksana Masters, due to her personal background and incredible story."
Close friends with any competitors?
"I've become close friends with the skiers and biathletes from the British team."
Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist?
"Yes, it's been very helpful, especially for biathlon."
Big obstacle that you've overcome?
"The amputation of my legs above the knees at age 29."
Biggest fear when competing?
"Not performing up to my full potential."
Olympic or Paralympic role model?
Summer athlete buddies?
"My teammates Aaron Pike, Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch are all summer athletes."
Your greatest influence within or outside sport?
"My first local coach in Colorado."
Advice you'd give a young athlete?
"Find ways to make it as fun as possible and avoid a 'competition and results' mindset in the beginning."
Best part of living in the Paralympic Village?
"Meeting people from different sports and countries."
Where do you keep your Paralympic medals?
"I keep them on a shelf next to my books."
Play any other sports? How does it help?
"Recreational surfing; it's a great way to relax, stay strong and have fun."
Which summer event would you like to try?
Any pre-competition rituals?
"The ritual has to do with the actual physiological warmup and course inspection."
How did you discover adaptive sport?
"Through a representative from the USOPC assigned to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, where I was undergoing physical therapy."
Passions & Personality
How do you unwind after a competition?
"Reading, stretching, jogging."
Do you support any charities or nonprofits?
"One Summit -- I'm a volunteer mentor teaching rock climbing indoors to kids who have cancer. Classroom Champions -- I'm a volunteer mentor teaching life skills to kids in elementary schools."
What would you do if you weren't an athlete?
"Still trying to figure this one out!"
Do you have any fears or pet peeves?
"I used to be scared of heights and the water."
Woman that inspires you?
"My mother, she's very compassionate and resilient."
"Reading -- it engages the mind and is restful. Surfing -- it's fun, often involves travel, and is great cross-training."
"I usually wear athletic clothes or flannel in the winter."
NBC Olympics Research contributed