The United States captured six gold medals across four different sports during the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games (March 4-13). In the process, Oksana Masters became the country's most decorated Winter Paralympian and the U.S. sled hockey team won a fourth straight title, but they weren't the only American stars of the Games. Relive each one of Team USA's golden moments below.
Oksana Masters captures biathlon sprint gold, her 1st Paralympic title in the sport
Four-sport athlete Oksana Masters shot clean to claim biathlon gold in the 6km sprint sitting on the opening day of competition, defeating the event's defending gold medalist Kendall Gretsch, her teammate, and reigning world champion Anja Wicker of Germany – both to whom she finished runner-up at those competitions.
For Masters, 32, it was her first title in the sport at the Paralympics and Team USA's first gold of the 2022 Games. The event's 2019 world champion also tallied her fifth career Paralympic gold and 11th medal, just six months after winning two titles at the Tokyo Summer Games.
"I feel on top of the moon right now ... I just cleaned my first race of the season and it just so happened to be at the Paralympic Games, which is wild," Masters said after the race. "In Sochi 2014 I was a medal contender. I went the wrong way and was out of the medals. In PyeongChang I didn't get to race healthy, and here, my third time around – it just feels absolutely incredible."
The Ukrainian-born Kentucky native praised the U.S. Para Nordic team's support, and also said she was happy to represent Team USA in multiple sports.
"I use sports for me to be able to tell my story and just to show what the human spirit and what the body can do, regardless of every single adversity and setback that's set in front of you," she said. "Just to keep pushing through it."
China's Shan Yilin, 20, also shot clean to grab silver, the host nation's first medal in Paralympic Nordic skiing. Gretsch, winner of PTWC paratriathlon gold in Tokyo, took bronze after missing her opening shot in the second bout. Wicker was fifth, missing on three of her 10 attempts.
Kendall Gretsch wins biathlon 10km six months after triathlon gold in Tokyo
Kendall Gretsch went one-two with teammate Oksana Masters in the 10km middle-distance sitting on Day 4 to match her world-championship result from January and win Team USA's second gold of the 2022 Paralympics. It was her second biathlon medal of the Games, having finished a respective three-one with Masters in the sprint.
The field's 10 biathletes slogged through slow snow with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Gretsch missed a shot during her first of four visits to the shooting range and had to take a penalty loop, but the Illinois native made up time on the course – so much so that despite Masters' clean shooting, Gretsch still took the victory.
Gretsch won by less than nine seconds over Masters. though crossed the line about a minute slower in real time. That's because a factored timing system enables skiers with varying ability to compete fairly, multiplying their times by a percentage. Gretsch's sport class is LW11.5 and she competes at 96%, while Masters' is LW12 and competes at 100%.
In 2021, Gretsch became the first triathlete to claim gold in the women's wheelchair class at the Paralympics, winning the event's debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The 29-year-old was born with spina bifida. She just missed the biathlon middle-distance podium in PyeongChang, then finished behind Masters with silver at the 2019 World Championships.
Masters admitted that her perfection in the range cost her precious time and praised Gretsch for her fast shooting, but nonetheless felt happy to redeem a DNF fall during the 2018 race. Her silver marked her 13th overall Paralympic medal and third in three events at the 2022 Games.
"It's going to be an incredible podium," Masters said. "I've got my teammate Kendall on top and an incredible athlete, [bronze medalist] Anja Wicker – she's been my influence in biathlon ... She's who I embody, she's the queen of biathlon. I'm so happy to share this with Team USA and Germany on the podium."
Oksana Masters claims 2nd biathlon gold despite 1st missed shot of Games
Oksana Masters won the 12.5km individual sitting for her second biathlon gold and teammate Kendall Gretsch took silver on Day 7. The result was a reverse of the duo's 10km middle-distance event finish and their third shared podium of three events in the sport classification, having also placed a respective first and third in last week's 6km sprint.
Masters missed the last shot of her third shooting bout — up until then she'd been perfect at the 2022 Paralympics — and trailed Gretsch after the 10km mark. But she shot clean in her fourth trip to the range and dug deep over the final 2.5km to triumph under the lights, upgrading a 2018 silver in the event for her second title and fifth medal of the Games.
"I was just trying to channel my inner Kendall [Gretsch]," Masters said. "I knew it was going to be tough and I just wanted USA to be one-two and I can't wait to celebrate this."
Gretsch, the two-time reigning world champion, hit all 20 targets to complete a medal trifecta at the Games, while sprint silver medalist Shan Yilin of China also shot clean to grab bronze. Despite being perfect with her rifle for the first time at these Paralympics, 2017 world champion Anja Wicker of Germany, bronze medalist in the 10km, finished fourth.
Brenna Huckaby, 'competing up' in banked slalom, still finds gold
Also on Day 7, Brenna Huckaby leapfrogged three Chinese riders with a massive second run in the banked slalom SB-LL2 to claim gold, Team USA's fourth overall of the 2022 Paralympics and her second medal of the Games after earning bronze in snowboard cross.
The mother of two daughters was initially in disbelief upon crossing the finish line, asking if she was on the podium. When the camera finally caught up to her, she was already smiling, and she proceeded to thank her family and dedicate the performance to them.
A double Paralympic gold medalist in 2018 and a four-time world champion, Huckaby nearly missed the 2022 Games after her SB-LL1 classification was removed from the women's program due to a lack of athletes. A subsequent legal ruling permitted her to take part, but with the caveat of "competing up" to SB-LL2, essentially at a disadvantage. Because of this, her victory wasn't technically a title defense – but the 26-year-old nevertheless became a repeat champion in the banked slalom discipline.
Huckaby was one of three women's SB-LL2 riders to dip below 78 seconds on the course. The others, 17- and 18-year-olds Geng Yanhong and Li Tiantian of China, took silver and bronze. Huckaby's teammate and PyeongChang silver medalist Brittani Coury, a nurse and EMT who has helped care for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, finished ninth. She was there to greet Huckaby after she won.
"I still can’t believe I won because those girls [from China] are freaking fast," said Huckaby, the only non-Chinese rider in the top five. "I also know that I can be fast, and so I was like if I can just ride my snowboard like I know how to do, I can be in the running."
U.S. wins first-ever Winter Paralympic relay title, Masters makes history
U.S. Nordic skier Oksana Masters clinched a historic 14th career Winter Paralympic medal on the final day of the 2022 Games, as the U.S. stunningly beat out Ukraine and China for cross-country gold in the mixed 4x2.5km – its first-ever medal in a Winter Paralympic relay.
Jake Adicoff and guide Sam Wood anchored an epic, come-from-behind finish to seize the victory and their third medals, 20-year-old Sydney Peterson completed a medal trifecta and retired U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen, already a six-time Paralympic medalist, finally earned his first of the 2022 Games in the sixth event of his campaign.
Masters became the most decorated U.S. Winter Paralympian of all time, and the first American to amass seven medals at a single Winter Paralympics — in addition to Sunday's relay gold, the 32-year-old collected sprint, 10km and 15km silvers in cross-country's individual events, and in biathlon, 6km and 12.5km golds and 10km silver.
A sitting skier, Masters led off and positioned the U.S. in third at the first exchange, about 20 seconds back from leader Ukraine. Peterson, who competes in the standing classification, dropped to fourth by the second exchange, nearly 50 seconds behind the lead, as the Chinese surged to overtake the Ukrainians. Sitting skier Cnossen then closed the gap to the front by a third of its previous time, but Team USA remained in fourth trailing by 30 seconds at the last exchange. That's when vision impaired duo Adicoff and Wood shot out like a cannon, going fourth to first in half a lap to cap an incredible rally and defeat China by 26 seconds.
"We knew that we were going to come into that last leg with a bit of a deficit to make up, that's just how the team is set up … We came out of the gate hot and just really sent it in the first half," Adicoff said. "To win this medal as the team – and not only as a team of like the five of us that skied but, you know, the whole Team USA that was behind us – is awesome. We're just ecstatic."
U.S. sled hockey wins fourth straight Paralympic title, 5-0 over rival Canada
Also on Day 9, the U.S. dominated Canada in the sled hockey gold medal game to complete a four-peat at the Winter Paralympics. Nashville roommates Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal each had two goals and an assist while captain Josh Pauls found the net and and an apple himself in a 5-0 victory, replicating the two teams' opening prelim game result.
Farmer and Roybal scored back-to-back short-handed goals via short side and interception in the first period. Pauls missed a penalty shot to begin the second, then Roybal with help from Farmer made it 3-0. Pauls redeemed himself with stellar stick handling to add another, and in the third, Farmer lit the lamp with an upper-decker to put USA up 5-0.
Goaltender Jen Lee, a retired U.S. Army sergeant who replaced retiring Steve Cash in October, recorded 16 saves to register a perfect Games while in net. Farmer led all players in the tournament, his third appearance, with 18 points. The 24-year-old is the U.S. all-time leader in goals, assists and points at the Winter Paralympics.
"We all just know that when it comes to these kinds of games, we are going to play harder than any other game," Farmer said. "Jen [Lee] was amazing. We killed off those penalties and yeah, it is pretty special to have that result."
The game was a rematch of the 2018 final in which the U.S. beat Canada 2-1 in overtime — Farmer, a native of Tampa, Florida, scored both goals, one to tie with 37 seconds remaining in regulation and another to win. Eleven members of the U.S. 2018 squad returned to repeat in 2022.