9 Women Athletes To Watch At The 2018 Paralympics In PyeongChang
If you watched every second of the Winter 2018 Olympics with bated breath, get excited because the Winter 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang are just around the corner. With the opening ceremony kicking off Mar. 9, you'll be able to root for your favorite sports, countries, athletes and more as they compete in seven different sports. What's extra cool about the Paralympics? They are pretty explicitly feminist, with 44 percent more women participating in PyeongChang than in Sochi, and programs in place to foster women's participation. There are a ton of women athletes to watch at the games, but here are nine that the sporting world is already buzzing about.
While the Paralympics feature fewer athletes than the Winter Olympics — only 670 in total — there's still plenty of room for many amazing female athletes to grab your attention. And believe me, you're going to feel inspired. In case you're in need of a primer, the sports at this year's Winter Paralympics are alpine skiing, the biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, wheelchair curling, snowboarding and ice hockey. Over 100 countries, a new record, will be watching as athletes with a wide range of disabilities compete, and the competition will indeed be fierce.
1. Brenna Huckaby (U.S.), Snowboarding
Whether it's the bright purple hair or her tendency to win everything that comes her way, 22-year-old Brenna Huckaby is a burgeoning superstar. The snowboarder is one of the Paralympic Committee's "Ones To Watch," has just been voted America's athlete of the month, and is on track to dominate snowboarding at the Paralympics. Huckaby, who had a leg amputated after a cancer diagnosis in her teens, is coming into the Games as a firm favorite; after taking time off to have her daughter Lilah in 2016, she's proceeded to take number one rankings in competitions ever since.
2. Lena Schroeder (Norway), Para Ice Hockey
The "para ice hockey", as it's called, is a hell of a watch — and Lena Schroeder of Norway will be the only woman on the ice, in the Norwegian team as a forward. The sport, which is played on sleds, is hugely male-dominated and Schroeder is the first female to feature in a Paralympic ice hockey team since 1994. But Schroeder, an experienced athlete, told the Paralympic site that “I’m well aware that I am the only female player. I get some attention from it from spectators or maybe people on the staff from other teams. For me, I’m so used to it that I don’t see any problems with it."
3. Stephanie Jallen (U.S.), Alpine Skiing
Stephanie Jallen, who was born with Congenital Hemidysplasia with Ichthyosiform Erythroderma and Limb Defects Syndrome, was a breakout star at Sochi, where she won two bronze medals — at her first ever Paralympics. "I really felt no pressure because it was my first Games and I was a rookie," she told Ken Hanscom of Road To PyeongChang. "I just went out and skied the best that I could." She's battling back from a severe ankle injury that may have impacted her preparations for PyeongChang, so if she does medal, she'll be one of the big comeback stories of the Paralympics.
4. Marie Bochet (France), Alpine Skiing
French athlete Marie Bochet is one of the BBC's names to watch at the Paralympics because of her dominance. She's won four Paralympic skiing golds, all at Sochi, and is competing in five different skiing events in PyeongChang — which seems like a lot until you learn the titbit that she was the first skier to win all five of those disciplines at a single World Championships. She's the odds-on favorite to dominate all her events.
5. Oksana Masters (U.S.), Cross-Country Skiing & Biathlon
Oksana Masters has competed in both Summer and Winter Paralympics, and has medalled in most of them: on her resume are a bronze for rowing and a silver and a bronze for cross-country skiing. She's competing in both the biathlon and cross-country skiing at PyeongChang, and NBC has picked her out as an athlete to watch, so be prepared to see her give her all.
6. Menna Fitzpatrick (UK), Alpine Skiing
Fitzpatrick is only a teenager, but at the age of 19, her competition record in para alpine skiing is stellar. In case you've ever wondered what it's like to pelt down slopes with three percent vision at 100km/hr, communicating with a guide via Bluetooth, Toyota made an Instagram account to give people the chance to "see like Menna." Not only is Fitzpatrick going into the Games as a medal hope, she's also raising awareness for visually impaired athletes everywhere.
7. Grace Miller (U.S.), Biathlon & Cross-Country Skiing
Alaskan teenager Grace Miller is breaking a lot of barriers to compete in PyeongChang. She only started racing at an international level in December 2017 and placed in the top 15, which is frankly incredible. Miller, who was born without her left forearm, is still in high school and is planning to split her life between skiing and a biology degree in college after she graduates this year.
8. Bibian Mentel-Spee (Netherlands), Snowboarding
Bibian Mentel-Spee is coming into PyeongChang after some serious health battles. Mentel-Spee, who has world titles and Paralympic gold to her name, battled cancer for most of 2017. She's the defending snowboarding champion from Sochi, but has only recently finished her radiation therapy, and told the Paralympic website, "For me it is more important to compete there than to win. And just being there at the event with all my friends and showcasing the sport, that is the most important thing for me."
9. Aileen Neilson (UK), Wheelchair Curling
At PyeongChang, the 12 teams competing for gold in wheelchair curling will be mixed-gender, including the British team, whose captain, or 'skip', is veteran competitor Aileen Neilson. Neilson, who is Scottish and began using a wheelchair at age 2, is a champion of long standing: she first got involved in curling with a bronze world championship medal back in 2007. She and her team won bronze in Sochi and now she's back for her third Paralympics in a serious bid for gold.