2014 Paralympic Athlete Spotlights

On Friday, March 7, 2014, the Winter Paralympics will kick off in Sochi, Russia. Team USA is bringing the heat this year! Below we have profiled some of the toughest competitors on the slopes and ice.

Omar Bermejo

Bio: Marine Corp veteran Omar Bermejo is not easily cracked. The Michigan native completed four tours in Iraq and was well on track for a long military career. A motorcycle accident on a rainy night six years ago brought those plans to a halt. Omar lost his right arm in the accident and had to adjust to a new life and a ‘new Omar.’ As a part of his rehabilitation, he picked up cross-country skiing and quickly excelled.

Event: In Sochi, he will compete in the biathlon, a grueling cross-country race is broken up by multiple rifle shooting rounds. The accuracy of the racer’s shot determines if extra time or distance will be added to their racecourse. Bermejo’s biathlon event is scheduled to air Saturday, March 11th, at 2:00 AM, EST on NBCSN.

Tatyana McFadden

Bio: Tatyana McFadden, known as ‘The Beast’ to her fans and teammates, was born with spina bifida in Russia. Spina bifida is a condition where the spinal cord is underdeveloped often resulting in a form of paralysis. In Tatyana’s case, she was born without the use of her lower body from the waist down. As a determined young child in a St. Petersburg orphanage, she taught herself to walk on her hands and in 1994 was lovingly adopted by her mother Debbie McFadden. Tatyana continued to grow stronger by the day and became heavily involved in wheelchair sports at her new home in Baltimore, MD.

Event: Astonishingly, this remarkable young woman has defied the odds and has been competing in the Summer Paralympic Games since age 15. She medaled in Athens, Beijing, and also competed in London. This winter, she takes to the slopes competing for the first time in Paralympic cross-country skiing. Follow Tatyana’s journey – her first competition will air live Sunday, March 9th, at 1:00 AM EST on NBCSN.

Amy Purdy

Bio: Since she was a child, Amy Purdy has had a passion for the slopes and hoped for a professional career in snowboarding. Amy started riding as an able-bodied teenager in her home state of Nevada. At age 19, she contracted a serious form of bacterial meningitis, which resulted in both of her legs being amputated below the knee. Amy is not one to be phased by a setback, not one bit. Close to a year after her double amputation, Amy claimed third place in a California snowboarding competition.

Event: Today Amy is a dominant competitor in the realm of adaptive snowboarding. This March, Amy will represent the United States in her first Paralympic Winter Games. She is a three-time World Cup gold medalist and hopes to bring home the gold from Sochi. Coverage of the Paralympic snowboarding events begins Friday, March 14th, at 3:00 AM EST on NBCSN.

Heath Calhoun

Bio: Retired Army Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun lost both of his legs above the knee in an IED explosion during his service in Iraq. Just five months later, thanks to incredible care from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he found himself at an Aspen, Colorado Winter Sports Clinic. The rest is history.

Event: Health now actively competes in alpine skiing, swimming, cycling, and running. He has not used a wheelchair since the day he was fitted with his prosthetic legs. In Sochi, Heath will compete in his second Winter Paralympics in the mono-ski event. Cheer on Heath and the rest of the USA Paralympic Team! Live downhill ski coverage begins Saturday, March 8th, at 1:00AM EST on NBCSN.