Now that I'm officially on the team behind the team, I've been working with the Paralympic side of things since the Olympics ended. So I'm reading all these stories and watching all these videos, and I'm wondering HOW the Paralympics don't get more attention! I am so. freaking. excited to watch these bionic human beings compete. Don't worry, the bandwagon has plenty of room for you too. ;)
(That right there is Evan Strong, a para-snowboarder and totally adorable human being. Just FYI.)
+All those great things about the Olympics? They all apply to the Paralympics too! Every. single. one. So break out your American flag socks and set your alarm clock for the wee hours of the morning, my friends, because wheelchair curling only comes to your TV screen once every four years! (Yes, you read that correctly: wheelchair curling. It's curling... in wheelchairs. Honestly, do I even need to continue writing this post? That alone should have you sold.)
+These athletes are more capable than most able-bodied people. I don't even like saying "able-bodied people," because Paralympic athletes are sure as hell nothing less than able. Seriously, I don't like the idea of careening down a mountain with two legs and my eyesight, let alone short a limb or two or totally unable to see.
And the extremely high number of two-sport athletes deserves a mention. Alana Nichols competed in wheelchair basketball in 2008 and 2012, and alpine skiing in 2010 and 2014. Tatyana McFadden has 10 wheelchair track and field Olympic medals under her belt from 2004, 2008 and 2012, and is making her winter debut in Nordic skiing. Augusto Perez competed in wheelchair curling in 2006 and 2010, and is now a Nordic skier. And those are just the ones I know off the top of my head!
There are NO WORDS for how mind-blowing these people are.
+Visually-impaired athletes and their guides. Blind athletes are able to compete in alpine and Nordic skiing with the help of a guide, who skis the course immediately ahead of them. The guide has a microphone and the athlete has the receiver in his or her helmet, and the guide calls out instructions and warnings and course conditions and such as they're skiing.
+Snowboardcross. This is the first time that para-snowboarding is on the program. Yes, snowboardcross, that absolutely insane sport that leaves me riddled with anxiety just watching it. But these guys and gals do it with a prosthetic leg... or, in Amy Purdy's case, TWO prosthetic legs.
+The U.S. sled hockey team is the answer for all disgruntled USA Hockey fans. Bummed about how our men did in the Olympics? Well, the sled boys are defending gold medalists! In the four Paralympics that have included sled hockey, the U.S. has two golds (and a bronze). Meanwhile, men's hockey has been included at the Olympics since 1920 (22 times) and the U.S. has... two golds (and eight silvers and a bronze). The sled team got the same amount of gold medals in, what, a quarter of the time? I believe that is the dictionary definition of gettin' it done.
+Every single Paralympian has more or less been to hell and back. You've got veterans injured in the line of duty, you've got cancer survivors, you've got survivors of horrific accidents, and you've got everything in between. A lot of them never thought they'd be able to compete in sports again, let alone compete on the biggest stage in the world. So by being at the Paralympics, they've achieved something beyond their wildest dreams.
And really, isn't that what we all aspire to do?
(So this totally wasn't meant to be a sales pitch, but if you have some time, please tune in! All events are being live streamed at TeamUSA.org (that link takes you directly to the landing page -- I even did the "hard" part for you!), and 52 hours are being broadcast on NBC and NBCSN between March 7-16. Come on, you know you want to!)