Four Golds, Four Silvers and Infinite Inspiration from Team Toyota’s U.S. Paralympic Athletes
On the ice and on snow, Team USA delivered world-class performances at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. More than 560 athletes from 46 nations took to the world’s stage, including Team USA’s 67-member delegation who earned a total of 20 medals, eight of which were won by Team Toyota’s U.S. athletes.
Paralympic athletes have a tremendous impact on the world of sports and the athletes of tomorrow. It’s an honor to celebrate the five U.S. Team Toyota athletes who demonstrated strength, determination and resilience — showing the world that when people are free to move, anything is possible.
Below are some of the highlights from this year’s Paralympic Winter Games.
Team Toyota Paralympic Athletes
At 32 years old, Oksana Masters became the most decorated U.S. Winter Paralympian with 14 Paralympic medals in biathlon and cross-country skiing. Masters won a medal in every event she competed in, earning three gold and four silver, to become the first American to win seven medals at a single Paralympic Winter Games. Masters is one of four multi-sport Team USA athletes who made a second Paralympic Games appearance within six months after competing at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and has a current count of 17 career Paralympic medals.
“The most iconic Paralympic Games for U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing and I’m beyond proud to have experienced all these amazing moments with this team,” says Masters. “We are not done yet to show the world what this team and Team USA can do and will do.”
In her fourth consecutive Winter Games, para alpine skier Danelle Umstead was chosen to be Team USA’s female flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. One of the most decorated visually impaired alpine skiers in U.S. history, Umstead took 14th place in the women’s visually impaired giant slalom event. In the women’s visually impaired slalom event, Umstead unfortunately caught an icy edge near the top of the course on her first run, recording a Did Not Finish (DNF).
“Of course, being the flag bearer for Team USA at the Opening Ceremony, that was the best part,” Umstead says. “What an honor for us to walk out there in front of the delegation and support each athlete and our country. That is something I will cherish at the top of my list for the rest of my life. Even though it didn’t have the crowd we are used to, we know the crowd at home was loud and proud.”
At 41 years old, assistant sled hockey captain Rico Roman won his third career Paralympic gold medal as part of Team USA, helping lead the team to its fourth consecutive medal — continuing Team USA’s run as the most decorated team in the sport’s history. Roman and Team USA were the only undefeated team at the tournament, and the team’s 5-0 shutout against Canada became the most goals ever scored in a Paralympic sled hockey final. A retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, Roman is one of 12 athletes on the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Team who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I am so honored to bring home Gold for Team USA and to serve my country in another way,” says Roman. “Going for another Games is always exciting. The expectations of this team was a positive thing. It kept us hungry and focused on the goals we all set. The camaraderie we all have is similar to what I had in the military. We all support each other, but we also rib each other and have a lot of fun.”
At 35 years old, snowboarder Evan Strong competed in his third Paralympic Winter Games. In competition, Strong led the way for Team USA in the men’s SB-LL2 banked slalom event with a fifth-place finish. The Haiku, Hawaii native became the first male to win a gold medal in snowboarding (snowboardcross) in the sport’s debut at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
“I started adaptive snowboarding back in 2008, and it’s been amazing to see the level of where we came from and where we are today,” says Strong. “I’m just so happy to be here, to showcase my snowboarding. It’s great because my family, my two daughters, are watching back home and I get to show them what I do. I’m just enjoying the ride.”
Para alpine skier Andrew Kurka came into his third consecutive Paralympic Games as a five-time World Champion medalist. Kurka was looking to defend his gold medal in the men’s sitting downhill event but was blown into a fence on the training course just an hour before race time. Kurka competed anyway in the first-ever Toyota Sit-Ski, earning an impressive fourth place finish despite what was later revealed to be a broken humerus and thumb, ending his 2022 Games run.
“I had amazing support, amazing coaches and amazing friends backing me up,” Kurka says. “The best sit ski on the planet and the most amazing sponsors any athlete could ask for.”
Originally published March 29, 2022