Opening day at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, saw U.S. athletes Kendall Gretsch and Dan Cnossen (pictured above) make history as the country’s first-ever biathlon gold medalists at the Paralympic or Olympic Games. Previously the best-ever finish in either Games for Team USA was Andy Soule’s bronze medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
“I would say Andy Soule was the trailblazer and I would give a lot of credit to him,” said Cnossen. “When I was new on the team, he was the inspiration, and I know he’s going to pop a good race here as well.”
For her Paralympic debut, Kendall Gretsch, competing in women’s sitting, overcame a lone missed shot on her second range visit to win the gold by a margin of over 24 seconds. She finished the 6 km race with a time of 21:52.
“I’m just really excited to be here,” said Gretsch. “It’s my first Paralympics, first race, so it’s just a great way to kick off the week and hopefully [there’s] more to come. It was an awesome race.”
Cnossen’s gold medal winning performance in the 7.5 km men’s sitting race had him 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, improving upon his previous results from Sochi where he had a best finish of sixth in the cross-country sprint and 10th in individual biathlon.
“In the race, I just wanted to see what I can do, not worrying about anything else,” said Cnossen. “In the last Games that I did in Sochi, I let the TV screens and the announcer get to me and today I just focused on what I can do and nothing else matters. I crossed the line and I wasn't even going to look at the board and I was pleasantly surprised at the end.”
Additionally, Cnossen won a silver medal in the 15 km biathlon race. Cnossen is a true jack-of-all-trades who has also competed in paracycling at the world championships.
Competing in his second Paralympics, Cnossen is a retired Navy SEAL. While serving as the platoon commander for SEAL Team One in Afghanistan in September 2009, he stepped on an IED. As a result of his injuries, Cnossen lost both legs just above the knee.
“I have focused more on the cross-country, but with my military background I’ve always thought that I could maybe focus more on the skiing and then the shooting would fall into place,” he added.
More interesting facts about Cnossen: he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor from the Secretary of the Navy for his service in combat. Additionally, Cnossen is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and attended Harvard University for postgraduate studies.