The 2022 Paralympic Winter Games are coming March 4 to NBC, Peacock, USA Network, Olympic Channel, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.
Before the Games begin, learn a little bit more about a few of the names hoping to represent the United States:
Andrew Kurka, Alpine Skiing
A five-time state champion in wrestling, Andrew Kurka dreamed of going to the Olympics and winning gold on the mat... But his life changed when he flipped a four-wheeler and broke his back at age 13... He continued to wrestle, winning another state championship without the use of his legs... Three years after the accident, his physical therapist brought him to an adaptive ski and snowboard school, and he set his sights on a new dream... In 2018, he became the first Alaskan Paralympic medalist when he won a gold medal in downhill and a silver medal in super-G... Raised by a single mother who worked two jobs, the Alaska native grew up in a small Russian-speaking village.
Danelle Umstead, Alpine Skiing
Umstead, a three-time Paralympic medalist, will represent the United States in the visually impaired class of Alpine skiing, making her fourth career Winter Paralympics appearance. Her husband, Rob Umstead, will be by her side as her guide on the slopes. Umstead's path to the 2022 Paralympics was a tough one. A relapse of Multiple Sclerosis caused her to miss the 2018-19 ski season, and she later suffered a broken tibia and fibula in a February 2020 crash after returning to training. Nonetheless, Umstead will make an improbable Paralympic appearance at age 50. One of the most decorated Paralympians in U.S. history, Umstead is also a role model for young female athletes with disabilities through her Sisters in Sports Foundation.
Thomas Walsh, Alpine Skiing
The day before he was supposed to set off to Green Mountain Valley School (a ski academy in Vermont), Alpine skier Thomas Walsh was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that developed in his pelvis and lungs... He underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and pelvic resection treatments for 14 months before being declared cancer-free... While in the hospital, the Vail native was frequently visited by one of his childhood friends: Mikaela Shiffrin... Both natives of Vail, Shiffrin and Walsh go way back... Walsh's first racing coach was Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela's mother... It was during one of the hospital visits that Shiffrin told Walsh she had never been to a high school prom... Walsh recalls, "Mikaela said to me, ‘You better be around for that because you’re taking me to your prom'"... Walsh had the opportunity to travel to Sochi to watch Shiffrin compete thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation... After the Olympics, he began researching what it would take for him to compete in Para Alpine skiing... He made his World Cup debut in 2015 and his Paralympic debut in 2018, where his best finish was fifth in slalom... Finished third in both giant slalom and super combined at the 2019 World Championships.
Dan Cnossen, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon
Nordic skier Dan Cnossen was one of the breakout athletes of the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, leaving the Games with six medals... Nine years earlier, he was serving as a U.S. Navy Seal lieutenant commander in September 2009 when he stepped on an IED and had to have both legs amputated just above the knee... Cnossen had more than 40 surgeries as a result of the injury and learned how to use prosthetics... An avid runner, he was introduced to Nordic skiing in late 2010 after attending a training camp in Montana... Cnossen said he "immediately fell in love with the peacefulness and its connection with nature."
Dani Aravich, Cross-Country Skiing
Sports were integrated early on into Dani Aravich's life... Born without her left hand and forearm, Aravich was encouraged by her parents to get involved in athletics, first in soccer, then distance running... She was a DI cross-country and track and field athlete during her first year at Butler University... After college, she was working for the Utah Jazz when a family friend approached her about training for the Paralympics... She started training for the 400m (because her classification does not include distance events) and made her Paralympic debut in Tokyo... Six months later, she hopes to compete in 2022 in Nordic skiing after being recruited to the sport by a U.S. coach who invited her to a training camp... While she admitted training for both Games in such a short time span presented its challenges, "I would never want to look back 10 years from now and be like, 'Oh, well, I made the Winter Games in 2022. Amazing, but I might have been able to make the summer too. Why didn't I go for it?"
Oksana Masters, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon
A 10-time Paralympic medalist, Oksana Masters has excelled in both winter and summer sports, winning five medals in PyeongChang and two in Sochi in nordic skiing, a bronze medal at the 2012 London Paralympics as a rower and most recently, two gold medals in cycling at the Tokyo Games... An injury led her to switch from rowing to cycling after London, and at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, she finished just shy of the podium, which she said kept her thinking about winning a medal in Tokyo... Born in Ukraine with a set of birth defects believed to be caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Masters bounced between orphanages for seven years until she was adopted by a single mother... She will be among the busiest athletes in the world in the next six months with a quick turnaround between the Summer and Winter Paralympics.
Brody Roybal, Sled Hockey
At just 15 years old, Roybal was the youngest member of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. Four years later, he was part of another gold medal-winning team in PyeongChang. Roybal is a congenital bilateral amputee, born without femurs in either leg. Growing up, Roybal played softball and basketball, then switched to wrestling in high school. His true passion was contact sports, driving him to try sled hockey at age eight in 2006. At age 12, his career took a slight detour when he broke one elbow and injured the other in a skateboarding accident. After trying wrestling, his soon realized that his true passion was sled hockey. Later that year, he was attending USA Hockey’s player development camps with dreams of Paralympic gold. He made his debut with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team during the 2013-2014 season...Member of the ARC Performance Team...Has been employed by DICK's Sporting Goods as a member of their contenders program...Son of Robert and Michelle Roybal...Hobbies include skateboarding, working out and gaming...Has one brother, Spencer...Was named the 2015 March of Dimes Inspirational Athlete of the Year. In June of 2021 at the OSTRAVA 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championships he was named Named Best Forward, Named Best Player of the Game in two matchups... USA/CAN; USA/NOR and was overall named MVP of the U.S. Team.
Declan Farmer, Sled Hockey
Declan Farmer made his Paralympic debut in Sochi at 16, as the second-youngest member of the gold-medal winning team. He was born a bilateral amputee (one above the knee and one below the knee) and has been playing sled hockey since age nine. Born in Tampa, Florida, Farmer has since moved to Nashville Tennessee after graduating from Princeton University with a degree in Economics in 2020. He is a two-time Paralympian, having competed in both Sochi and PyeongChang. Farmer began to make his mark on the national scene by attending USA Hockey’s Player Development Camps in 2010, 2011 and 2012. At just 14 years old, he made his first U.S. National Sled Hockey Team for the 2013-14 season and assisted the team in winning gold at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. In PyeongChang, Farmer was instrumental in winning the gold yet again where he scored the biggest goal of his career, tying the gold-medal game with 38.7 seconds left. As the game headed into overtime Farmer had what he described as the biggest moment of his athletic career when he scored the winning goal of the Paralympics against Team USA's biggest rival Canada at 3 minutes, 30 seconds into overtime. In yet another dynamic Canada / USA matchup, the U.S. went on to win gold at the 2021 Para Sled Hockey World Championship that took place in Ostrava, Czech Republic. At the conclusion of the Worlds, Farmer posted 3 goals, 4 assists and 29 shots on goal.
Josh Pauls, Sled Hockey
Born without tibia bones, Josh Pauls had both legs amputated at 10 months old... He had dreams of becoming the first NHL goalie with no legs before joining a local sled hockey team in 2002 at the encouragement of his parents... Six years later he made his U.S. national sled hockey team debut at age 15... In 2010, at age 17, he was the youngest member of the gold medal winning team at the Vancouver Paralympic Games... He won a second gold in Sochi and a third in 2018 in Pyeongchang. He currently serves as Captain of the US Sled Hockey Team and helped lead the team to a world title win against Canada at the 2021 Para World Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Rico Roman, Sled Hockey
Rico Roman, a father of two, admittedly did not grow up as a hockey enthusiast... Hailing from Portland, Oregon, he served in the U.S. Army for nine years and had his left leg amputated above the knee after being injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007... He was introduced to sled hockey by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel, and after failing to make the national team on his first try, dedicated himself to becoming a better sled hockey player... Roman won gold with the U.S. at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi and then again in 2018 in PyeongChang. He also won Gold with the Team at the 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Jen Lee, Sled Hockey
Born in Taiwan (known during the Games as Chinese Taipei); Hometown: San Francisco, CA - Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army (Retired), Lee had his left leg amputated above the knee when injured in a motorcycle accident in 2009. He was introduced to sled hockey by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel. Lee has said, “For me, being part of Team USA gives me the ability not only to represent my country, but I also value the camaraderie of all my teammates. I was a military service veteran prior to being hurt, and the chemistry and the bond that we've created on and off the ice with my teammates is something I will never forget.” A backup goalie for U.S. Sled Hockey, Lee is poised to take the top goaltender spot following the recent retirement of Paralympic legend Steve Cash. The U.S. is looking for a fourth straight gold in Beijing having defeated Canada, 2-1, in an unforgettable OT thriller in 2018 at PyeongChang.
Brittani Coury, Snowboarding
Coury broke her right ankle while snowboarding in 2003, and in the years to come experienced continued complications with the ankle, requiring multiple surgeries. In June 2011, after nine surgeries, she decided to have her leg amputated below the knee to pursue a more active life... Motivated by those who had helped her with her injury, she sought to become a registered nurse... She first competed in Para snowboarding in 2016 and won a Paralympic silver medal in banked slalom in 2018... She was at a competition in Norway in March 2020 when she was awoken at 2 a.m. to pack her things and leave due to COVID-19... As a nurse, she volunteered to help at the COVID-19 ward of her hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Other U.S. Paralympic hopefuls to watch include: Mike Schultz (Snowboarding); Noah Elliott (Snowboarding); Brenna Huckaby (Snowboarding); Evan Strong (Snowboarding); Keith Gabel (Snowboarding); Laurie Stephens (Alpine Skiing); Danelle Umstead (Alpine Skiing); Kendall Gretsch (Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing); Jake Adicoff (Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing); Aaron Pike (Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing); Josh Sweeney (Sled Hockey, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing); Steve Emt (Wheelchair Curling); Matthew Thums (Wheelchair Curling); David Samsa (Wheelchair Curling); Pam Wilson (Wheelchair Curling); Oyuna Uranchimeg (Wheelchair Curling)
NBC Olympics Research contributed to this story.