Rising Stars Who Shone For Team USA At The 2022 Paralympics

by Chrös McDougall

Some of Team USA’s biggest Paralympic stars just seem to stick around.
Among the 67 U.S. athletes who competed at the recent Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, 40 of them had previous Paralympic experience.
Yet the 27 athletes, including one guide, who made their Paralympic debuts in Beijing left quite the impression. Whether they left with medals, momentum or just great memories, the Paralympic newcomers showed they are more than ready to lead the next generation.
Here’s a look at nine U.S. athletes who shone bright in their Paralympic debuts.

Garrett Geros celebrates his silver medal in snowboardcross SB-LL2  during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 7, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.


Garrett Geros, Snowboarding

As some of the stalwarts who helped make Team USA a power in Para snowboarding start to phase out of the sport, the 22-year-old Geros is part of a new generation that’s showing Team USA isn’t going anywhere. Originally from Cartersville, Georgia, he left his first Paralympics with a snowboardcross silver medal, one of four medals won by U.S. snowboarders in Beijing. “He’s come a long way both on the snow and off the snow, and I see nothing but greatness for him,” said Keith Gabel, one of those veteran boarders on Team USA, having won two medals over three Paralympics. “I told him this. Two or three years ago, I said you're the future of the sport. I see nothing but greatness for him.”

Allie Johnson competes in the women's standing super combined during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 7, 2022 in Yanqing, China.


Allie Johnson, Alpine Skiing

Growing up in Chicago, Johnson loved to ski but never saw a future in the sport living so far from the mountains. Instead, she became a therapeutic horseback riding instructor, helping other people with disabilities achieve their goals. Eventually she decided to give it a go as a ski racer, though. Now she’s a Paralympian. Johnson, 27, entered four races in Beijing and finished two of them, with her best placement being 12th in the standing giant slalom. She took 14th in the super-G as well.

Malik Jones celebrates his gold medal during the sled hockey medal ceremony during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 13, 2022 in Beijing, China.


Malik Jones, Sled Hockey

Jones grew up watching Team USA’s teenage sled hockey stars Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal thrive at the 2014 Winter Games. Now at 19, Jones is not only following their example but also playing with them. A forward from Aurora, Colorado, Jones made his Paralympic debut in Beijing and played a key role in helping Team USA go undefeated and win a fourth consecutive gold medal. One of six rookies on the U.S. team, he scored in a 5-0 rout of rival Canada in the opening game to set the tone for the Americans. He finished with four goals and an assist in the four games. Jones also became just the second Black player to suit up for the U.S. sled hockey team in the Paralympics.

Jesse Keefe poses for a photo during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 9, 2022 in Yanqing, China.


Jesse Keefe, Alpine Skiing

Keefe at age 17 was one of the youngest of the delegation’s 67 athletes in Beijing. Originally from Bellevue, Idaho, he showed plenty of promise in his Paralympic debut. Racing in four events as a standing skier, Keefe topped out with a ninth-place finish in the slalom. After enrolling in a full load of classes last summer so he could take some time off from school ahead of the Winter Games, Keefe plans to graduate from high school this summer and then take a gap year to get some more skiing in before starting college.

Zach Miller completes in the men's banked slalom competition during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Zhangjakou, China.


Zach Miller, Snowboarding

Miller, 23, has already made his mark at the global level. In two appearances so far at the world championships, the Silverthorne, Colorado, resident has won a gold medal in dual banked slalom and a bronze medal in snowboardcross. The Beijing Games weren’t quite as fruitful, with Miller clocking in at 11th in snowboardcross and 15th in banked slalom, but the big-time gamer and F1 fan now has a wealth of experience to build upon in the years to come.

Max Nelson and his guide Simi Hamilton compete during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 9, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.


Max Nelson, Nordic Skiing

Another Team USA teenager, Nelson turned 18 on the first day of competition in Beijing, and he ended his first Paralympic Winter Games with three solid finishes in the visually impaired classification. Originally from Grant, Minnesota, Nelson counts as one of his greatest sporting achievements winning a high school race against sighted skiers. Now the Mahtomedi High School senior has shown he can hold his own with the best VI skiers in the world.

Evan Nichols poses for a portrait on October 28, 2021.


Evan Nichols, Sled Hockey

Originally from Haymarket, Virginia, Nichols had participated in a handful of U.S. development camps, but prior to taking the ice for Team USA in Beijing he had never competed internationally. At 17 years old, the forward hardly looked out of place, racking up three assists in his Paralympic debut, a 9-1 shellacking of South Korea during the preliminary round. It was a sign that the youngest player on the team could have a long future ahead of him.

Sydney Peterson celebrates one of her medals during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 9, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.


Sydney Peterson, Nordic Skiing

It’d be hard to find any Team USA athlete whose star rose faster than Peterson’s. Just a few months ago she was focused on her sophomore season on the St. Lawrence University Nordic skiing team. Then, in December, she decided to get her Para classification as a standing skier. In the three months since, Peterson, of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, collected three world championships medals, then she brought home a full set of cross-country medals from Beijing: gold in the mixed relay, silver in the long-distance race and bronze in the sprint. The 20-year-old Peterson tied for the second most decorated U.S. athlete at the Beijing Games.

Drew Shea competes in the standing middle-distance biathlon Middle during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 8, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.


Drew Shea, Nordic Skiing

Team USA sent just one standing men’s Nordic skier to each of the last two Paralympic Winter Games. Shea was part of a three-man continent in Beijing that is looking to change the country’s fortunes in the standing classification. The 24-year-old from Vienna, Virginia, began skiing three years ago, and since graduating from the University of South Carolina he’s been training in Park City, Utah, and Bozeman, Montana. He’s proven to be a quick study, having competed in five events at his Winter Games debut and placed in the top 20 in four of them.

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic Movement for since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
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