Army Vet Wins First U.S. Medal In Paralympic Biathlon
(March 19, 2010)
|WHISTLER, British Columbia (ANS, March 13, 2010) -- U.S. Army
Afghanistan veteran Andy Soule Saturday won what was not only the first U.S.
medal of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, but also the first-ever medal for the
U.S. Paralympic Biathlon team.|
|Army retiree and double-amputee Andy Soule skis in the men's sitting competition. He won a bronze medal Saturday for the U.S. Paralympic Team in the 2.4km biathlon pursuit.
Photo by Joe Kusumoto
After placing fifth in the morning qualification race, Soule came from behind in
the final race of the men's sitting 2.4-km pursuit to win the bronze medal on
the opening day of competition.|
"After I passed [Sergey] Shilov, I just hammered it and didn't look back," said
Soule. "It felt just incredible. I've had World Cup wins and World Cup podiums
before, but there's nothing quite like this - in this atmosphere, in front of
the crowd here with everyone watching."
Soule is a retired Soldier from Pearland, Texas, who served in Operation
Enduring Freedom. He was a cadet at Texas A&M during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
that prompted him to enlist.
While on a security patrol in the Shinkay District of Afghanistan May 21, 2005,
Soule was a gunner in the back of a Humvee when an improvised explosive device
detonated. The explosion killed one Soldier and damaged Soule's legs, leading to
a double amputation above the knees.
Soule was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and then
sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he spent the next several years
recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center. During his rehabilitation, he began
looking for ways to keep active.
"We had a number of opportunities (at Brook Army Medical Center) to get involved
in various sports through some local organizations," said Soule. "One of those
sports we got involved with was handcycling."
While Soule was participating in a bike ride in San Antonio in 2005, he met the
director of Wood River Ability Program, Mark Mast, who encouraged Soule to get
involved with cross country skiing.
"Mark thought I had potential as a cross country skier," said Soule. "He runs a
camp every winter for the U.S. Adaptive Cross Country Ski Team to develop new
athletes and he invited me to it."
Soule had never even tried cross country skiing prior to his injury. In fact, he
had very little skiing experience. "I had been downhill skiing a couple of
times, but that was it," said Soule.
A year after attending the camp he moved to Sun Valley, Idaho to begin to train
full-time at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.
He was hooked and with impressive results at the 2007 U.S. Championships and two
consecutive top-10 finishes in his first World Cup races, Soule earned a spot on
the U.S. Ski Team.
"It was a great race," said U.S. Biathlon Paralympic Head Coach Greg Rawlings of
Soule's performance Saturday. "He went into it with a great attitude and just
started reeling people in. He missed one and went around the penalty loop, but
didn't stress it. He just kept going and cleaned it on the final. I think his
brain switched right there and he figured out that he was in the game. He was
able to pick people off one at a time until he was at the line."
Top-ranked Irek Zaripov of Russia won gold with a time of 9:51.00, while
Ukraine's Iurii Kostiuk crossed the finish line +47.9 for silver. Soule, who
entered competition ranked fourth overall in International Paralympic Committee
World Cup points, posted a final time of 10:53.01.
"Andy did an amazing job today, coming from behind in the last loop with one
penalty. It was a spectacular performance and I couldn't be more proud of him,"
said U.S. Biathlon Executive Director Max Cobb. "U.S. Biathlon just got involved
in the Paralympics about two and a half years ago. For us, this is validation of
the athletes' hard work, of the coaches' work with them and the fact that the
American team can win medals at the Paralympic level in biathlon."
Biathlon competition continues at Whistler Olympic Park on Wednesday with the
men's sitting 12.5 km, women's sitting 10 km, men's and women's standing 12.5
km, and men's and women's visually impaired 12.5 km events.
By Army Sgt. Alun Thomas
1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., USD-C
Army News Service /
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