ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — ZHANGJIAKOU, China — On Sunday at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre in Zhangjiakou, China, Team USA won its first-ever mixed relay gold to close up the cross-country competition at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Sam Wood led Team USA’s 4×2.5-kilometer mixed relay, which included Oksana Masters, Sydney Peterson, Dan Cnossen, and Jake Adicoff. They won gold with a time of 25:59.3 seconds. China came in second with a time of 26:25.3, and Team Canada came in third with a time of 27:00.6. Ukraine, the defending world and Paralympic champions, came in fourth place. “I couldn’t be happier or more proud,” Cnossen remarked. “It’s truly an honour to be a part of this squad, especially given the calibre of athletes I’ve had the opportunity to ski alongside.”
Cnossen, 41, became Team USA’s most experienced medalist in Beijing. Masters became the most decorated U.S. Winter Paralympian with 14 career Winter Paralympic medals as a result of his gold medal win.
On the para cross-country skiing programme, the relays were the only team events. The mixed relay consisted of four fast 2.5-kilometer loops skied by an alternate team of two, three, or four skiers, with at least one man and one woman on each team.
Masters ran a good first leg before handing off to Peterson, a three-time Paralympic medalist. Cnossen finished third on leg three, keeping Team USA in fourth place. For the final lap, Adicoff and Wood ramped up the heat, rocketing into first place and never looking back.
“We got off to such a fast start,” Adicoff remarked. “We were just having a blast at the beginning, there was no holding back.” We had skied into the lead by the time we reached the top of the course. We just had to stay on our feet and get it home from there. For the initial portion of the race, getting that enthusiasm from our teammates was crucial.”
Athletes from all over the world participated in the seated, standing, and visually impaired categories for the American team. After solid podium finishes in each classification during the previous eight days of Paralympic competition, the team felt confident going into the race.
Cnossen explained, “It’s not just one athlete carrying the strain.” “We have extremely talented athletes in every category.” I didn’t have some of the solo success that I’ve had in the past here, but it just goes to show that being part of a team improves performance.”
“Max Nelson, the U.S. Para Nordic team’s youngest skier in Beijing, competed for Team USA from the start of the race in the leadoff leg. “Trying to fight off a couple other skiers for my spot at the start was really insane,” Nelson said. “But it’s an honour to be here and race for Team USA,” she says. It had been a fantastic day.”
Drew Shea, a first-time Paralympian, said it was a terrific way to cap off his first Games experience. “Being able to fight for the next guy who’s out there is very special in such an individual sport,” Shea said. “Out there, it’s not about you. It’s all about the team, so you’re simply trying to make up for lost time.” With 14 medals, Team USA’s para Nordic skiers completed a great Paralympic Winter Games (four gold, eight silver and two bronze.)