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Six hundred seventy athletes are competing in 80 medal events across six sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, Nordic skiing, sled hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling. (All sports have female U.S. competitors, except for sled hockey.)
We spoke to five women, some of whom have already made it onto a U.S. Paralympic team, while others remain hopeful for a spot.
Here’s what they have to say about their journeys:
Three-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters, 28, is a native of Ukraine who came to the United States after being adopted by her mother, who “never stopped fighting” for her. Masters is also a double above-the-knee amputee, born with birth defects as a direct cause of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986.
“I also don’t have the normal hand structure and don’t have thumbs, so I rely a lot on my forearms and triceps,” Masters says.
“One quote I really like to live by is by Coco Chanel: ‘In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.’ I used to hate my body and prosthetics, and would try to hide the fact I had them, but this quote changed my perspective of how I view myself and others. … I am so proud to be a part of the Paralympic movement by doing something I love, and I hope I can inspire just one girl to look at herself in the mirror and see all the endless possibilities there are.”
Home town: Louisville
Sport: Nordic skiing (This is also known as cross-country skiing, where the skier uses light shoes.)
Pump up song: “Whatever It Takes,” “Believer” and “Walking the Wire” by Imagine Dragons. Also, “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters.
Training food: “Does coffee count as a food?” asks Masters.
During the day, 18-year-old Grace Miller trains with her ski coach, Mikey Evans; by nighttime, she’s finishing up her schoolwork. The youngest Nordic skier on the 2018 U.S. Paralympic team was born with only one hand and looks up to female athletes such as Masters and Jessie Diggins.
“Both have paved the way for Nordic skiing and are making history every day,” says Miller. “They are also absolute beasts on the race course and are unstoppable. … The Nordic skiing community is the most amazing, supportive, enthusiastic group of people you will ever meet, and it is the main reason why I love the sport so much. They don’t care about how fast or slow you are, they are just happy to have you.”
Home town: Palmer, Alaska
Sport: Nordic skiing
Pump up song: “Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones, “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel and “Islands in the Stream” by the Bee Gees.
Training food: “Green apples represent my training because it always seems super bitter when you first bite into it, but if you stick with it, you’ll end up loving it,” says Miller.
Meghan Lino, 33, was born with spina bifida – a condition that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. That didn’t stop her from getting hooked on curling in 2007.
She spends her days training at the Cape Cod Curling Club with her fellow wheelchair curlers. They’re like family, she says.
“I absolutely love representing and competing for my country,” says Lino.
Home town: East Falmouth, Mass.
Sport: Wheelchair curling
Pump up song: “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons
Training food: Greek yogurt mixed with granola
On Feb. 20, members of the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team and U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team will be announced. The two athletes below have a good chance of making their respective teams.
Amy Purdy lost a spleen, the hearing in her left ear and both her legs — below the knee — to bacterial meningitis at 19. She also got a kidney transplant.
“I certainly didn’t know what the rest of my life would be like, but I definitely knew I wanted to snowboard again,” says the 38-year-old athlete and former “Dancing With the Stars” competitor.
That motivation drove her to figure out the perfect snowboarding feet.
“There weren’t any feet specifically designed for snowboarding, especially at that time. I had to get creative and piece different feet together, and get them to move the way I wanted them to. … A friend, also an above-the-knee amputee, creates all our snowboard feet above his garage. He’s been able to create this unbelievable foot for snowboarding called Versa Foot,” says Purdy.
Now, the 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist and her husband are co-founders of Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit that passes on this valuable knowledge to other people with physical disabilities, such as veterans.
Home town: Las Vegas
Pump up song: “Seven Nation Army (Glitch Mob Remix)” by the White Stripes
Training food: Doughnuts, eggs and yogurt
Danelle Umstead, 45, is visually impaired. In 2010, she was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. None of that has stopped Umstead from racing down mountains at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. She does it all with the help of her husband and full-time guide, Rob Umstead — her partner in every sense of the word. Skiing in front of his wife, he calls out commands through a headset.
“I think we have a solid, super strong marriage through sports, because we’ve learned to communicate so well. If we have a bad day, we blow it off, we move on, you know. We don’t sit and stew in it,” says the three-time Paralympic medalist.
“My motto is: ‘Live your impossible every day.’ Not just tomorrow or once in your life. Do it every day,” Umstead says, admitting that it wasn’t always easy to be positive. Now, though, she wakes up thankful every morning.
Home town: Park City, Utah
Sport: Alpine skiing (This is commonly known as “downhill” skiing, where the skier uses a rigid boot to fix the foot and ankle.)
Pump up song: “Hey Hey Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Training food: A hearty breakfast of spinach and two eggs, topped with avocado. Plus, yogurt and homemade granola.