Entries by medalquest

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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Game Three for the Ice Warriors

With wins under their belts from the first two games, Team USA knew they would be in the semi-finals.  Team Russia, with a 1-1 record, did not.  So both teams came to skate hard in a game that was ultimately decided in the final minutes of play.

Well before the first period ended, though, the game was already historic.  At 11:57 Russian forward Ilia Volkov scored, breaking Steve Cash’s perfect record – no goals were scored against him in the past seven Paralympic Games, stretching back to Game 1, Vancouver, 2010.  Both Andy Yohe and Paul Schaus were in the penalty box at the time, giving the Russians a two-man edge that they quickly took advantage of. 

Another goal in the second put Russia up 2-0, and although Team USA took more than twice as many shots on goal as Team Russia, goalie Vladimir Kamantcev made stop after stop, ending with 22 saves.  As Adam Page said, Kamantcev “played the game of his life.” 

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Sunny Skies over the Mountains

Women's Alpine: Super G

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center. The crowds that packed the stands to watch the women’s super G racing were hardly bundled up at all, having a great time.

Not so much for the skiers. Of the 29 women who started the three super G races, ten did not finish. 

Most seriously injured were two Americans, who were both helicoptered off the slopes, Alana Nichols and Stephani Victor. Late in the day, Alana posted on Facebook: “I am just fine. I was knocked unconscious and had to have stitches in my chin, but feel incredibly blessed to have left the mountain today in the shape I am in.” She added that Stephani was also banged up but ok.

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Game Two for the Ice Warriors

“Shayba” is a great name for a hockey venue: it means “puck” in Russian. In the Olympic Park, the Shayba Hockey Arena is perfectly round, has a flat roof, and is covered in ice blue and tan diagonal streaks – the perfect image of its name. Apparently, “Shaybu!” is also what Russian fans chant to support their team.

But not so far, at least at Team USA’s games. Yesterday, in the USA vs. Italy match, a surprising number of people in the crowd were waving Russia flags but had Italy’s red, white, and green colors painted on their faces and were cheering for Italy. At today’s game against Team Korea, the Russians were yelling, “KO-REE-AAA!!”

But as team captain Andy Yohe told ICE WARRIORS, “As long as the crowd is cheering, we don’t care who they’re cheering for.”

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Scotland in Sochi

Bagpipes and drums – not what you’d expect in Russian sports. But that’s how the Paralympic curling matches began today, with two pipers and two drummers, in kilts, marching in stately procession along the baseline and right up the middle of the ice.

Competition for the curlers began yesterday at the Ice Cube Curling Center. The first six days are a round-robin tournament among the ten national teams; the top four teams go on to the semi-finals. To fit in all 45 games, the schedule is tight, with teams playing every day (sometimes two games a day) and three or four teams playing simultaneously.

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Day One: Three Medals for Team USA

Up in the mountains at the Rosa Khutor alpine center, three Americans made it to the podium on the first day of alpine skiing. 

In the women’s standing class, Allison Jones won bronze, her first Winter medal since taking a gold in slalom in 2006.  Allison was totally upbeat after the race.  “I came here to have fun,” she said, “and I’ve had a blast.”

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After the Game: Sled Hockey families

USA Sled Hockey families were pumped after Team USA’s 5-1 win over Italy in the first round of play.

Game One for the Ice Warriors

All eight teams of the 2014 Paralympic sled hockey competition played today, on Day One of the Games. 

One of the games was a blowout, with Canada grinding down Sweden, 10-1.  

One was a nail-biter:  Korea stunned Russia with a 3-2 shootout victory that was the tournament’s first upset.  

One was a close-fought 3-2 win, Norway over Czechoslovakia, with the Norwegian goalie making 21 saves.

And then there was USA Sled Hockey’s 5-1 win over the Italians. The Americans, as defending gold medalists, were favored to win, but they might not have expected how that win would unfold. Three of the five goals were made by its youngest players. Late in the first period, 16-year-old Declan Farmer ignited the team with its first goal of the Games, and 15-year-old Brody Roybal scored in both the second and third periods, once off an assist from Declan. 

Sled Hockey: USA vs. ITALY

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Favorite Moments from the Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies

· Precision marchers in red, white, and blue stepping in and out of each others’ lines, weaving intricate patterns and ultimately forming the Russian flag – and then bending in sequence to make the “flag” wave.  Later in the program, the marchers came back in blue, green and red to march again, this time forming the three Paralympic agitos – the name for the “swooshes” that make up the Paralympic logo.

 · A giant icebreaker – really huge! – making its stately way across the Olympic Stadium.  Hundreds of dancers with ice “shards” scattered as it plowed across, symbolizing the Sochi Paralympics’ goal of breaking down barriers for people with disabilities.

 · And, of course, the arrival of Team USA in 2014’s distinctive “ugly Christmas” sweaters.  The US athletes looked ready to roll, with competitions in curling, sled hockey, biathlon, and alpine skiing starting tomorrow!

Transformation

Transformation

Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Paralympics are over, and in many ways they were just fabulous – lights, sounds, hundreds of dancers and acrobats, flying ladies and computer graphics, fireworks inside and out of the Fisht Olympic Stadium.

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The Ukraine Question

Overshadowing the 2014 Paralympics has been, and still is, the question of Ukraine. With the threat of a Russia-Ukraine war hanging and world leaders scrambling, the Ukrainian delegation was torn: Should they withdraw in protest, or stay and compete in the Paralympic spirit of neutrality? 

This afternoon, just hours before the Opening Ceremonies, the announcement came: the delegation would participate. In a press conference, Valeriy Suskevich, Ukraine’s head of Paralympics, made a point of saying, “Don’t let us start a war during the Paralympic Games,” but he also promised his delegation would leave immediately if there was more conflict. 

So there was a moment of real drama when Ukraine was announced in tonight’s parade of athletes – and only one person emerged into the stadium wearing Ukraine’s distinctive blue and yellow. Flag bearer Mykhailo Tkachenko, a biathlon athlete, wheeled his way across the stage with a somber expression on his face. The crowd erupted in huge cheers – the only cheers that were louder were for their own Russian delegation – but Tkachenko never waved or acknowledged the crowd. 

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Setting Up at the Opening Ceremony

ICE WARRIORS cameraman Scott Sinkler setting up for today's opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games. New video will be part of the revised version of ICE WARRIORS, including the USA sled hockey's team performance in Sochi.  In the meantime we will be sending photos and news every day.  Follow us and share!

Team Ukraine will not withdraw from the Paralympic Games

4 hours to Opening Ceremonies, and news reports say Ukraine's delegation will not withdraw from the Paralympic Games.  The International Paralympic Committee's president, Sir Philip Craven, who will preside over tonight's opening celebrations, was quoted as saying "The talking point of Sochi 2014 needs to be great sport and great athletes, not global politics."  The team will leave if there is an escalation of military conflict.

MEDAL QUEST will be sending pictures and reporting from the Fisht Stadium in Sochi later today, after the Paralympic flame is lit and the Games are officially started.

Meet the Press

MEDAL QUEST dropped in today at the official first press conference of Sochi 2014, a chance for Russian organizers to discuss what they called “barrier-free standards for the whole of Russia.”  This would be huge for any host country, but especially for Russia, which hasn’t had a strong record on accessibility. In fact Russia (then the Soviet Union) did not even host a Paralympic Games after the 1980 Olympics.

Also announced:

· All 45 national teams have arrived in Russia, a record for the Winter Games.  That includes Ukraine’s team, although it’s still not clear if they will withdraw before tomorrow’s Opening Ceremonies.

· 547 -- the total number of athletes expected -- is also a Paralympic Winter Games record.

· Around 60 countries will broadcast the Paralympics, including new broadcasters NHK Japan, Rede Globo Brazil, and NBC USA.

USA Hockey’s Josh Pauls, who was part of the press conference, talked with ICE WARRIORS about being back at the Paralympics, what was different from Vancouver, and how awesome the Shayba Arena will be for the sled hockey competition.  Here’s Josh:

THE ICE WARRIORS ARE READY

We stopped by practice today to see Team USA get ready for the Games.  They went flat out for the whole time, racing around in speed laps, doing shooting exercises at both ends of the rink with Jen Lee and Steve Cash both in goal, working 40-second 5-on-5 drills from faceoffs, stopping only to swig water and listen to Coach Jeff Sauer.

ICE WARRIORS’ photographer was there -- and included in these exclusive pictures are first views of Steve and Jen’s newly-painted goalie helmets.  It’s a tradition that Paralympic and Olympic goalies re-paint their helmets as they want for the Games. 

Practicing Before the Games

IN ROSA KHUTOR

IN ROSA KHUTOR

As we came down the mountains, we stopped for a moment in Rosa Khutor, a village squeezed into a narrow valley at the base of the mountains.  Music was blaring and we walked into an outdoor party – a stage with folk singers and dancers, people enjoying themselves on a warm evening – at least 60 degrees F!  Here are a few pictures.

Two Worlds

Two Worlds

Here in Russia, the Games are a world in themselves, set off and apart.  Or maybe two worlds, to be more accurate:  the “coastal cluster,” where the Fisht Olympic Stadium is and where sled hockey and wheelchair curling will be played, and the “mountain cluster,” where nordic skiing, alpine skiing, and biathlon will be held. 

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ICE WARRIORS team arrives in Sochi

The ICE WARRIORS team is in Sochi, where the Olympic Park is very quiet, waiting for teams and fans to arrive. The "HOT COLD YOURS" signs are still up to welcome the athletes, but the Paralympic "swooshes" have replaced the Olympic rings on the buildings. 

And our flight from Moscow included a group from Finland's wheelchair curling team, very friendly.

Mina Mojtahedi of the Finland curling team.

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Coming to PBS: ICE WARRIORS

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“Thank you, London”

As the Games ended, MEDAL QUEST’s Paralympians talked about the fantastic welcome that London gave the athletes.  

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A Family Bonds in Racing

For Tatyana McFadden, London 2012 is her third Paralympics, a chance to add even more medals.  For her sister Hannah, 16 years old, it’s a first-time experience.  Both are competing in the 100m sprint.

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“Athletes being athletes, there’re going to be accidents.”

Cheri Blauwet, seven-time Paralympic medalist and now a medical doctor, has turned her skills to preventing athlete accidents.

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Ending on a Perfect 10

Archers Jeff Fabry and Matt Stutzman knew, going in to the Games, that the competition would be fierce in each of their divisions.

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2012 LONDON ARCHERY HIGHLIGHTS

Matthew Stutzman and Jeff Fabry of Team USA at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

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One Year Later

Exactly a year before the 2012 Paralympic Games, Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder was injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.

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2012 LONDON LONG JUMP HIGHLIGHTS

Visually impaired athlete Lex Gillette's silver-medal jump is today's slideshow feature.

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“We knew they were going to fight”

Team USA’s wheelchair basketball players Paul Schulte and Joseph Chambers talk MEDAL QUEST through their bronze medal match against Great Britain’s “really good” players.

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2012 LONDON WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL HIGHLIGHTS

Team USA's Men's and Women's wheelchair basketball teams at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

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“Crash into them as hard as you can.”

Andy Cohn and Nicholas Springer of USA Wheelchair Rugby talked to MEDAL QUEST after the US beat Team Great Britain.

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LAST DAY OF THE 2012 GAMES

9 September 2012 - The last day of the Paralympics was a wrap-up day, just a few events. But the US went out on a strong note: Wheelchair rugby cruised to a 53-43 win in their final match, bringing home the bronze, and in the women’s marathon (T54), Team USA’s Shirley Reilly won gold.

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100m Run by the Fastest Men In The World

The most high-profile race in the Paralympics is the Men’s 100m sprint (T44), headlined by South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, called “the fastest man on no legs.”

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DAY 10 OF COMPETITION

8 September 2012 - Today was the last full day of competition, and the MEDAL QUEST team and I were drawn to Track and Field again. We were especially watching the preliminary heats for the women’s 100m (T-54) wheelchair race to see the McFadden sisters, Tatyana and Hannah, sprinting head to head.

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DAY 9 OF COMPETITION - Live from London

7 September 2012 - It’s coming down to the final stretch here in the Games – just one more full day of competition on Saturday, then final events and the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday.

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“When the crowd got louder, it fueled me.”

Cyclist Allison Jones knew she wanted to get to the London Paralympics, even if she had to buy her own ticket and come as a spectator.

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Day 8 of Competitions - Live from London

6 September 2012 - Last night was the marquee event of these Paralympics, the much hyped Men’s 100m sprint (T44), or as most people think of it, “the Oscar Pistorius race.”

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On the Track and In the Pool

Rudy Garcia-Tolson decided last year to try to qualify in two Paralympic sports, on the track and in swimming.

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Day 7 of Competition - London 2012

5 September 2012 - Wednesday, a week into the Games, and today I was at the most packed arena I’ve seen outside of the Olympic Stadium, and the loudest, for sure.

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Blake Leeper: Preparing to Compete

Blake Leeper wasn’t satisfied with the silver medal he won at last year’s Parapan American Games.

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Day 6 of Competition - London 2012

4 September 2012 - MEDAL QUEST was at two very different competitions today. First was Track and Field, which is actually called “Athletics” here at the Paralympic Games.

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Judo: All in One Day

On September 1, the Paralympic judo athletes worked their way from starting rounds to final medals.

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Day 5 of Competitions - Live from London

3 September 2012 - Yesterday’s play ended so late at the Olympic Stadium, I didn’t have the energy to write. But there was a dramatic race that took place that evening, made even more dramatic after the competition, so I thought I’d recap.

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Day 4 of Competition - Live from London

2 September 2012 - London’s normal rains came back today, slowing down the outdoor events. Paralympic athletes compete in the rain, of course, just as able-bodied athletes do. But sometimes conditions get slick or dangerous, and the very strict Paralympic competition timetables slip.

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Top Rivals in Sitting Volleyball

The American and Chinese women have a rivalry in sitting volleyball dating back to the Beijing Games, 2008.

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The First Step Towards Gold

Goalball captain Jen Armbruster describes the team’s first game at the London Games, a match against a tough Swedish team.

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Day 3 of Competition - Live from the Games

1 September, 2012 - It’s hard to explain how much goes on so quickly at the Games. In some venues, like swimming, there’s only one pool, of course, so the races take place one after the other, with just very short breaks in between them.

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A Look Behind The Experience - London 2012

1 September 2012 - The MEDAL QUEST team has media credentials, which means we can enter the stadiums at special entrances. It’s all very carefully controlled: security screens our camera bags every time we enter the park, and volunteers check the tags around our necks to enter the stadium, to get to shooting positions, to get around to a new place to work, at every door and gate.

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Classification: A Unique Part of Paralympic Sport

Paralympic experts and athletes explain how competitors are grouped by kinds and levels of disability.

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“It’s the pinnacle of sport!”

As the London Games begin, MEDAL QUEST’s Paralympic athletes share their last-minute hopes and fears.

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DAY 2 OF COMPETITION - Live from London

31 August, 2012 - Another beautiful day in London. I’ve been surprised every day when the sun shines, after the soggy wet spring and early summer Britain had. Fingers crossed that the weather holds as the Track and Field and Soccer events are starting!

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LIVE BLOG - Day 1 of Competition

30 August 2012 – First Day of Competition    

After a gala night of fireworks and celebration, the London 2012 athletes got right down to business today.

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LIVE BLOG - THE OPENING CEREMONIES

29 August 2012 midnight+ London Time
by Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST
Opening Ceremonies for the London 2012 Paralympics ended an hour ago, and they were amazing. I could pick out one moment after another that was tremendous:

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Blog #5  LIVE FROM THE GAMES – JUST BEFORE OPENING CEREMONIES

Less than a half hour to the Opening Ceremonies! Last night, the Paralympic torch was created from four flames ignited on the highest peaks of England, Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland.  Joined together in Stoke Mandeville, where the Games originated in 1948, over the last twenty-four hours, 116 teams of 5 people have run, rolled, and carried the flame the 92 miles to and through London.

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MQ LIVE BLOG: NIGHTCAP NOTE

9:50 pm, a short end of day (London time) note

Producer Lindsay Gillette and I looked in at the Copper Box today, the venue where goalballers Jen Armbruster, Asya Miller, and Lisa Czechowski will be competing in just two days.

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MQ LIVE FROM THE GAMES: IT'S LONDON TIME

Last night the athletes of Team USA selected their 2012 flag bearer for 2012 -- 5-time Paralympian Scott Danberg, who competes in discus this year and also has competed in shot put.  On Thursday morning, US swimmer Trischa Zorn, the most decorated Paralympian of all times - 51 medals, 37 of them gold! - will be inducted into the Paralympics Hall of fame. 

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MQ AT THE GAMES: “DAY - 2”

That’s what they call it on the official Paralympic schedule “Day -2” as in “minus two” or two days to go.  And it has that feeling of “almost ready and just you wait!”  It’s very exciting.

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MQ LIVE BLOG: WATCHING THE PARALYMPICS IN THE US

Hi MQ fans,

As you know, MEDAL QUEST will be reporting live from London starting next Monday, two days before Opening Ceremonies.  We’ll have descriptions of what’s happening and what it feels like to be there cheering, photos from the arenas, stats like who won and how fast they went, more -- and we’ll be posting new video every day after the Games start.

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“The Gun Just Became Part of My Body”

Eric Hollen came to Paralympic shooting after an accident:  a 4,500-pound tractor fell on top of him.  “I lost everything.”

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WE'RE BLOGGING LIVE FROM LONDON

Starting next Monday, MEDAL QUEST will be blogging live from the London 2012 Games.  We’re really excited to be going, to share with you our experiences and the experiences of the amazing Team USA Paralympians.    

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Judo Fighting: "Leaving It All On The Mat"

Dartanyon Crockett was a star wrestler, just "a kid from Cleveland," when the U.S. Paralympics Judo team came calling.

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Racing for gold in the women’s 100m Butterfly

In the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, the women’s 100m butterfly was a battle between U.S. swimmers Jessica Long and Amanda Everlove.

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The Pressures of Winning

Swimmer Jessica Long won 3 gold medals at the Athens Paralympics at age 12.  Then she won 4 gold medals, a silver and a bronze in Beijing at age 16, setting 3 new world records – and she still felt she’d failed.

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Sitting Volleyball in Beijing

The 2008 gold medal match in women’s sitting volleyball was a hard-fought contest between the home country, China, and Team USA.

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"I always wanted to be an athlete."

Growing up in a small town, according to runner Sabra Hawkes, she didn’t know people had cerebral palsy.

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A Preview of London’s Top Swimming Races?

In the 2011 IPC European Championships, the women swimmers competing in the 200m medley (SM6) included world record holders and top medal contenders for London.

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“The wheelchair has taught me so much.”

Ileana Rodriguez was a dancer in Cuba before a spinal cord injury.  "All of us have challenges in our life," she says.

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2011 New Zealand – Women’s 400m Wheelchair Racing

At the 2011 World Championships, the women’s 400m wheelchair racing finals saw a field of three Americans, three Chinese, and two Australians.

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"You’re trying to hit that perfect mark."

Equestrian Wendy Fryke describes her sport as a combination of floor gymnastics and ballet – on a horse.

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Smashing His Own World Record

In Beijing 2008, swimmer Rudy Garcia-Tolson set a world record in the morning heats that qualified him for the finals in the 200m men's individual medley.

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"An Amazing Journey"

Swimmer Rudy Garcia-Tolson  looks at the Paralympics as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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"I can represent my country again."

Paralympic archer Russell Wolfe says he "searched for years to find my way" after an accident ended his military career.

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Wheelchair Tennis in London

In London, for the first time, Paralympic Tennis will have its own special tennis stadium.

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LOOKING FOR A PERFECT FIT

Prosthetist Shane Ryley reveals the special care and technology needed to create high-performance artificial limbs for athletes - and to keep them tuned perfectly for best results.

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21 YEARS LATER, I’M STILL TRYING IT OUT."

Canadian player Dustin Hodgson says he didn’t want to play "football" – as he calls soccer -- but his mother signed him up and he loved it.

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A LONG JOURNEY TO LONDON

Chris Ahrens explains that he and his teammates committed to London 4 years ago – and it took some tough playing to get them there.

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SHOT PUT AT THE BEIJING PARALYMPICS

In shot put, as in many other sports at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, another world record was set.

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ARCHERY AND THE MAN

Jeff Fabry, bronze medalist in archery in 2004 and 2008, is looking to “make a statement” in London 2012.

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INTRODUCING MEDAL QUEST

MEDAL QUEST kicks off with an introduction to “the best athletes in the world” – the elite athletes of the Paralympic Games.  Competing in sports as different as wheelchair basketballarcheryjudocycling, and more, these American athletes personify the grit, the strategy, and the skill it takes to go for the gold. 

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ANOTHER WORLD RECORD

In the 2008 Beijing Games, competing in the category of women under 40 kg, Lidiya Solovyova of Ukraine lifted more than 2.5 times her own weight.

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ON THE COURT IN SITTING VOLLEYBALL

"If you’re not thinking two steps ahead of your opponents," says Eric Duda of men’s sitting volleyball, "you’re already behind."

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THE MOUTHTAB EFFECT

Jeff Fabry demonstrates the technique that has brought him multiple medals at the Paralympics and the World Championships.

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TOP TOOLS FOR ELITE ATHLETES

“You would think that person was born with the chair attached to them” – that’s how one athlete describes the perfect fit for a sports wheelchair.

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WARRIOR GAMES 2012

The Warrior Games – a chance for injured service men and women to show their abilities and bring glory, again, to the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

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HOME STRETCH VICTORY

The 2011 men’s final in the 800 m (T-11) pitted two brothers from Canada against athletes from Colombia and Brazil in a race that came down to the last 20 meters. 

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LANDING THE LONG JUMP

Meet Lex Gillette, Track and Field athlete in the long jump, triple jump, and the 100m and 200m races.

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BONNIE ST. JOHN'S BLOG

Bonnie St. John looks back at her Paralympic experience and is "overwhelmed with joy and awe" at the competition today.

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GOLD IN GOALBALL

The U.S. women’s goalball team tells MEDAL QUEST the pressure is on to defend their gold medal from Beijing

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WHAT IS GOALBALL?

To some, goalball looks like a cross between bowling and soccer. The players know it as a tough, physical sport with lots of strategy and speed.

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RACING FOR THE GOLD

One of the most anticipated races at the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand was the men’s 400m race for T36 athletes with cerebral palsy.

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WHAT MAKES A CHAMPION?

It takes years of training to be a Paralympian, with long hours and a true competitive drive. “We have no slouches,” says judo’s Myles Porter.

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2011 – A NEW RECORD FOR WOMEN’S 100m

MEDAL QUEST featured athlete Katy Sullivan races against world record holder Michelle Errichiello of Australia and other top runners at the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand.

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"IT'S CHANGED MY PERCEPTION"

Paralympic sprinter Katy Sullivan remembers how unsure she was the first time she saw running legs.  Then, “the world of sports opened to me.”

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"I LIKE TO TAKE RISKS"

Alana Nichols of the women’s wheelchair basketball team admits she likes going “really fast.” “I love feeling my heart beat,” she says.

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WHEELCHAIR RUGBY: ARMORED CHAIRS AND TEAMWORK

In 2008, the U.S. wheelchair rugby team beat Australia to take home the gold.  Can they do it again?

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20 YEARS OF PARALYMPIC WHEELCHAIR TENNIS

Esther Vergeer, called “the most dominant player in professional sports,” explains wheelchair tennis

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“KEEP THE INTENSITY, KEEP POSITIVE.”

Mackenzie Soldan, wheelchair tennis player, talks us through last year’s gold-medal match against teammate Emmy Kaiser in Gualajara, Mexico.

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A RACE TO REMEMBER

In 2008, world records were shattered over and over again in swimming.  

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INSIDE WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL

In 2008, Jennifer Krempien of the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team took time to explain the “three things to remember” in wheelchair basketball.

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HITTING THE OUTSIDE JUMP SHOT

Paul Schulte, co-captain of the men’s wheelchair basketball team, answers the questions everyone asks about his sport.  

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A 4 x 400m SPRINT

At the IPC Athletics World Championships, so many teams were disqualified that the final race for the women’s wheelchair relay (T53/54) was down to two teams:  China and the U.S. 

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COMPETITION AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS

Blake Leeper talks about the intense level of competition in Paralympic sports and how he stacks up against two of the biggest names in racing: South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, and America’s Jerome Singleton. 

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GOING FOR THE GOLD, 2008

Anchored by Jerome Singleton, the U.S. sprinters needed a clean start and fast laps against a strong international field at the Beijing Games in 2008.

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"SIGN ME UP!"

Allison Jones tells the story of how she came to Paralympic cycling -- and how cool it is to hear crowds chant “USA!!” while she competes.  

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SNEAK PEAK AT THE LONDON VELODROME

Cyclist Allison Jones gets a sneak peak at the brand new Velodrome in London, where she’ll be competing this summer.

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"THESE LAST YEARS HAVE BEEN A WHIRLWIND"

Judo fighter Myles Porter talks about his rival and nemesis -- and off-court friend – Brazil’s Antonio Tenorio da Silva, and about what drives him to compete.

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"IT'S A MINI-PARALYMPICS"

American judo fighters, including MEDAL QUEST’s featured athlete Myles Porter , show how they prepare for an important qualifying event, the 2011 Parapan American Games in Mexico.

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A VETERAN'S JOURNEY

Paralympic sprinter, long jump competitor and U.S. Army veteran Kortney Clemons talks about the IED that took his right leg and killed three of his friends in Iraq.

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SPEED and AGILITY: WHEELCHAIR FENCING

Lightning-fast speed is the hallmark of a successful fencer. As this 2008 gold medal match shows, fencing requires enormous concentration, and points are won in just seconds.

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“TRAINING IS A FULL TIME JOB, 24/7.”

Paralympic cyclist Greta Neimanas takes us through her "full time job" – the tough training for the Games. It's a roller-coaster of ups and downs, with days that are “grueling” and some that are "effortless."

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LEARN MORE ABOUT PARALYMPIC SPORTS

Thousands of athletes will take part in the London Paralympics, starting August 29.  Here are their sports – and predictions about who is likely to bring home the gold.

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Paralympic Greats

Watch exciting videos of past competitions, with come-from-behind wins and heartbreaking losses

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Join the MEDAL QUEST

Connect with the Paralympic athletes blogging for MEDAL QUEST, and share your stories and pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Excitement of the Games

The London Paralympic organizers are preparing now for the Games, finishing the buildings, planning the ceremonies.  Every time the athletes gather, the fireworks are bigger and the competitions are intense.

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