Paralympics: Oksana Masters, Brenna Huckaby take gold; Masters one shy of records
Nordic skier Oksana Masters and snowboarder Brenna Huckaby gave the U.S. its first double-gold day of the Paralympics, with Masters moving one medal shy for the most career Winter Paralympic medals in American history.
Masters had her first and only shooting miss of the Games (50 total shots in three events), yet still edged countrywoman and silver medalist Kendall Gretsch by 5.8 seconds in a 12.5km event, the longest on the program.
“I was just trying to channel my inner Kendall,” Masters said. “She was just digging so deep.”
Masters earned her second biathlon gold of the Games, her fifth total medal in China combining biathlon and cross-country skiing and her 15th Paralympic medal overall when including summer medals in cycling and rowing.
More pertinent: Masters is up to 12 career Winter Paralympic medals, one shy of the U.S. record of 13 shared by Alpine skiers Sarah Billmeier and Sarah Will.
Masters has one individual event left -- a 7.5km cross-country skiing race on Saturday -- and, potentially, relay duty on Sunday. If she gets two medals, she will also break the record for most medals for an American at a single Winter Games, set by fellow Nordic skier Dan Cnossen in 2018.
Masters and Cnossen have more medal opportunities because they compete in two sports. Alpine skiing is the only current Winter Paralympic sport other than biathlon and cross-country skiing with more than two medal events per classification.
Also Friday, Huckaby earned her second medal in as many snowboard events, gold in the banked slalom following her bronze in snowboard cross. Huckaby earned a medal in all four of her events between 2018 and 2022, including three golds.
She tied Dutchwoman Bibian Mentel-Spee for the most Paralympic golds in snowboarding, which debuted at the 2014 Sochi Games. Mentel-Spee, a leader in the sport’s fight for Paralympic inclusion, died last March.
“Her husband told me before the race that Bibian would be on my shoulder today, and I think she was on my shoulder today,” Huckaby said, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Huckaby swept the snowboard cross and banked slalom golds in 2018 in a classification that in 2019 was taken off the Paralympic program due to a lack of riders. She applied to compete in either the corresponding men’s classification or to move into the remaining women’s classification, one with athletes with a lower level of impairment.
Para sport officials denied both requests. Huckaby appealed, and a German court ruled her eligible to “compete up” in the remaining women’s classification on Jan. 20, less than two months before the Games.
Also Friday, the U.S. hockey team beat China 11-0 to reach Sunday’s final against rival Canada, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal game. The U.S. is going for a fourth consecutive Paralympic title.
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