Andy Soule was a student at Texas A&M University at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The tragedy inspired him to enlist, and he was serving in Afghanistan in 2005 when his Humvee was blown up by a roadside bomb. Soule lost both his legs in the explosion, which killed another member of his team and injured two more.
Like many veterans he looked to sports as part of his rehab. Before his injury Andy had skied only once, and remembers falling a lot. After attending a cross-country development camp Soule chose Nordic skiing, a good fit because of his strength and marksmanship. Andy competes in a sit-ski, a specially designed seat attached to two cross-country skis, and propels himself with poles.
In 2006 Andy moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, to train full time, and by the next year he’d won a silver medal in the U.S. Championships. He joined the national cross-country team in 2008, and he went on to represent the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, competing in both cross-country and biathlon.
On the opening day of the Games, Andy won bronze in the 2.4 km sitting pursuit. It was a historic moment: he was the first American to win a biathlon medal in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games.
After Vancouver Andy took two years off to study ballistics in Oklahoma City. “He’s a ballistics specialist; he can pick apart rifles, build his own and service them,” says director of the Nordic team, John Farra. “We have kind of a unique sport. Yes people are shooting air rifles all over the world, but ours go out in frigid snow and weather, so it’s different. It beats up the rifles.”
Farra actively recruits military veterans like Soule and his fellow Nordic athlete Lt. Dan Cnossen because of “their drive and ability to shoot.”
Soule clearly has that drive. "I always enjoyed being in the Army, loved my job there, loved being out there doing the (physical) stuff," Soule says. Paralympic competition is “a great opportunity to continue to do something extraordinary with my life."