A Presidential Celebration

At the White House

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians at the White House this afternoon. Among the athletes in attendance were Paralympic skier Tatyana McFadden, wheelchair curler Jimmy Joseph, and the entire U.S. sled hockey team.

President Obama congratulated the athletes on the 46 medals Team USA brought home from Sochi, calling special attention to Declan Farmer’s three goals scored to help the U.S. sled hockey team win its second consecutive gold medal. At the end of the event, the President and First Lady were presented with Olympic and Paralympic flags signed by the athletes.

And the Winner is...

Best of U.S. Awards Show

Outstanding Paralympians and Olympians from 2014 Winter Games in Sochi were honored last night at the inaugural "Best of U.S." Awards Show, held at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Presented by the United States Olympic Committee, the awards were decided by fan voting on the Team USA Facebook page.

Skier Mark Bathum won as Best Male Paralympian for his silver medal performances in both men’s super-G and super combined events (visually impaired). Eighteen-year-old skier and first-time Paralympian Stephanie Jallen took home two awards, for Best Female Paralympian and for Moment of the Games. When Jallen won bronze medals in women’s super-G — her first Paralympic event ever — and in women’s super combined (standing), her joyous reaction lit up the medals ceremonies.

And our ICE WARRIORS were voted "Team of the Games" for winning historic back-to-back gold medals as they defeated the home team, Russia, in their home arena.

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Team USA Highlights from Sochi

Moments that stood out for Team USA in Sochi –

Tatyana McFadden

1. 10-time Summer medalist Tatyana McFadden (above, left) won our hearts by taking silver in the women’s nordic 1km sprint (sitting) after less than a year of winter training – and by doing it in front of both her Russian birth mother and the adoptive family who brought her up. Watching her win – and her grimace as she realized she’d come within a fraction of a fraction of a second of gold – suggests she’ll be back and gunning in the next Winter Games. Her sit-ski teammate Oksana Masters earned two medals, a silver and a bronze.

Evan Strong

2. The new sport of snowboard cross was a chance for Team USA to reaffirm the sheer American-ness of this sport. Led by Evan Strong (above), the US men swept the podium, and Amy Purdy brought home a women’s bronze, with two teammates right behind her in fourth and fifth places.  

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Opening Guns, Closing Accounts

Paralympic torch at the closing ceremony

Two weeks ago, the Sochi 2014 Paralympic flame was extinguished, dramatically, in a bowl of ice. The Paralympic flag was handed over to South Korea, the next host for the Winter Games. 

The 2014 Games began under a cloud that was eerily reminiscent of the past.  In the 1980 Summer Games, the US withdrew its athletes from competition in protest of the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan. America was joined by Japan, West Germany, China, Canada, and other nations. 

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Bringing Home the Gold

Sled hockey player Brody Roybal celebrates with his gold medal after the medal ceremony.

It’s just an expression used to describe a top win – “bringing home the gold.” But there’s a literal meaning to those words, as the USA Sled Hockey team discovered, and it’s pretty wonderful, too.

For Brody Roybal, it meant arriving home in Northlake, Illinois, to find hundreds of people in front his house chanting “USA! USA!” The crowd included family, friends, complete strangers, news reporters, and his West Leyden High School classmates. Just before leaving for Sochi, Brody had promised his school to do his best to “bring home the gold.” Mission accomplished.

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2014 Paralympic Winter Games Come to a Close

Closing Ceremony

Ten days ago, at the Opening Ceremony for the Sochi Paralympics, Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, called these Games “proof that what might not seem possible IS possible.” 

So it was fitting that tonight’s Closing Ceremony was titled “Reaching the Impossible.” The idea was brought to life in a sequence patterned on a video game, propelled by dancers moving giant multi-color blocks. Suddenly, the blocks rose to form the word IMPOSSIBLE as a countdown clock reached zero and “GAME OVER” flashed.

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Snapshots from the Win

Sled Hockey: Post-Win Interview

·  After every game, players line up and bump fists with their opponents, acknowledging the win, the loss, the game. Rico Roman (#23) was struck by a moment after the gold medal match: “One of the Russian players, they’re ex-military, too, one of them said, ‘Good job, soldier.’ That meant a lot.”

·  Gold medals are heavy - more than a pound and a half in total, shards of thick reflective glass set in a silver core and 24 karat gold exterior. The imagery engraved on them represents the sun's rays reflected through snowy mountains, and the temperate Black Sea coast next to Sochi’s icy peaks. The American players were holding on tightly to theirs, but also sharing:  “Would you like to wear it?” So ICE WARRIORS can attest to how great that weight feels hanging around your neck.

·  Team USA was jubilant after the Games, and ICE WARRIORS was there as they got on their bus back to the hotel. We’d heard them, many times over the months we’d filmed the team, cheering “ USA!  USA!” before and after games. Now they were saluting each other:  “BROOODY!!” “ JOSHHH!!!” And then, to the ICE WARRIORS team’s amazement, they cheered us: “PBS! PBS!” We were humbled. 

Watch the team's journey to victory in ICE WARRIORS.

Sled Hockey Fans

Sled Hockey Fans

We're big fans... of sled hockey fans. Take a look at some of our favorite gold medal game fans!

ICE WARRIORS win gold

Sled Hockey Final: USA vs Russia

The most important game of their lives, for both Team USA And Team Russia, came down to just one goal. Josh Sweeney (#13), who put that goal in the net, said he knew the Russian goalie, Vladimir Kamantcev, was a big presence in goal. So when Sweeney made a fast steal from a Russian defender, he did a little fake-out move, got Kamantcev to commit, and shot past him. It was enough. Team USA is bringing home gold, the first sled hockey team ever to win back-to-back gold medals.

Snowboarders Welcome

Men and Women's Snowboarding

Snowboarding made its official debut at the Paralympics, and Americans bagged four of the six medals. 

The American men swept all the medals in their event, with Evan Strong winning gold, coming in less than a second faster than silver medalist Michael Shea. Bronze winner Keith Gabel said, “The clean sweep is an honor. It’s a stupendous moment.”

And Team USA’s Amy Purdy came in third in the women’s event, behind boarders from Netherlands and France.  Purdy, who had earlier blogged about tough conditions on the Rosa Khutor alpine center, said conditions ranged from “icy slush to wet slush.” Today the course was so bumpy, she added, “It was all about staying on my feet” and “riding smart.”

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Steve Cash Named U.S. Flag Bearer for Closing Ceremony

Sled hockey goalie Steve Cash has been chosen by his 80 teammates to carry the flag for the US Paralympic Team at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday. US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun pointed out that Steve was the team MVP in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics, where USA Hockey won gold. He called Cash "a trusted leader and friend to not only his teammates, but all U.S. Paralympic athletes," and added "We certainly wish him and the rest of the team the best of luck as they take on Russia for the gold medal tomorrow night – Go Team USA.”

Game Four for the Ice Warriors

USA vs CANADA

Game 4 of the 2014 Paralympic sled hockey competition could not have been more highly anticipated. The US and Canadian teams have battled so often and so hard, the players know their opponents almost as well as they know their teammates. In the 2013 World Championships, Canada came out on top, and they beat the Americans again in Toronto later in the year. But the US won the last two match-ups, in January, before heading to the Paralympics. 

The stage was set for tonight’s game, a must-win for Team USA to keep their gold medal hopes alive after Tuesday’s tough loss to Russia. 

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A Big Win for the Ice Warriors

Everyone on Team USA knew that Game 4 was a must-win to keep their gold medal hopes alive after Tuesday’s tough loss to Russia. Both the Americans and the Canadians came out with tremendous focus and a lot of scrappy play, but Declan Farmer scored first for the US 9:12 into the game, then again at the end of the period. 

Five minutes into the second, Farmer notched an assist as he found Josh Pauls, who shot and brought the score to 3-0. Canada was fired up in the third, trying hard to score, but Steve Cash played another perfect game, stopping all eleven shots on goal. Team USA is headed for a rematch against Russia in the gold-medal finals on Saturday night.

Silver for Tatyana

Tatyana McFadden (left) added to her Paralympic record (10 Summer medals) by winning silver in the women's 1km cross-country sprint. Less than a year after pushing off for the first time in her cross country sit-skis, she came within a tenth of a second of the gold, won by Norway's Mariann Narthinsen. The 1km sprint consists of a qualification (Tatyana came in 4th), a semifinal (she came in 2nd), and a final.

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Four in the House

In curling, quitting can be good. But to understand why, you need a whole new vocabulary.

The playing field, called a “sheet,” has round targets painted on its two ends.  The whole target is called the “house,” and the bulls-eye is called the “button.”

When all eight stones of an “end,” or inning, have been thrown, the team closest to the center of the button gets a point. If that team has two stones closer – and these things are measured! – they get two points.  

There’s even a term for that perfect situation when all eight stones delivered by one team are closer to the center – a “snowman.”  This is tough to achieve, since the other team is using its throws to knock your stones away.

Team USA Curling

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