With the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games kicking off in PyeongChang last weekend, Toyota will be a driving force in the success of Team USA’s athletes.
When the 2018 Paralympic Games begin in PyeongChang this Friday, Toyota will be a driving force in the success of Team USA’s athletes.
Toyota is proud to partner with U.S. Ski & Snowboard Teams, U.S. Figure Skating, U.S. Speedskating, USA Hockey, and the U.S. Men’s, Women’s and Sled national teams. The company is also supporting many of Team USA’s top athletes, whose bios you can read below.
This year also marks an important first for Toyota: the company is serving as the Worldwide Mobility Partner for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
So, get to know these incredible athletes as they prepare to go for the gold in PyeongChang. Their stories of perseverance, determination and grit will inspire you.
November 7, 1979
Las Vegas, Nevada
By the time she reached high school, Amy knew she wanted to snowboard for the rest of her life. But at 19, she contracted a dangerous infection, and her legs had to be amputated. “When I lost my legs, my passion was to return to snowboarding, but I had no plans to compete—I just wanted to ride with my friends again.” Only seven months after she received her prosthetic legs, Amy was back on the mountain. “As I got stronger and better, I began pushing my equipment and progressing to the point of competition.”
The moment she discovered snowboarding was a Paralympic sport, she was driven to become the best snowboarder she could be. Her drive landed her a spot on Team USA during the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, where she won a bronze medal in snowboard cross. “To win a bronze in Sochi was a dream come true.” A trailblazer, Amy founded Adaptive Action Sports with her husband, Daniel Gale, to teach snowboarding to youth, young adults and wounded vets with physical impairments. Over the years, the organization gained momentum and successfully lobbied to make snowboarding an official sport in the Paralympic Winter Games 2014.
Purdy has already made her mark in PyeongChang, winning silver in snowboard cross last weekend.
Para Alpine Skiing
February 15, 1972
Park City, Utah
As her eyesight declined, Danelle Umstead’s determination escalated. Danelle was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 13 years old, which eventually led to the loss of her vision. She has defied the diagnosis with two Paralympic Winter Games appearances to date. Danelle got her first taste of adaptive alpine skiing in 2001 and found herself drawn to challenging terrains—despite learning to live without her vision. After much hard work, she can now call herself a three-time Paralympic Winter Games medalist. In PyeongChang, her husband, Rob (With Danelle, above), will guide her and their son will be cheering from the sidelines.
Name: Evan Strong
Event: Para Snowboarding
Birthdate: November 13, 1986
Hometown: Maui, Hawaii
Previous Paralympics: 1
Evan grew up surfing and skating in Hawaii. By the time he was 13, his skills helped him lock up a local skate shop sponsorship. But right before his professional skating career took off, his life took a dramatic turn. Ten days before his 18th birthday, while driving his sister’s motorcycle to work, Evan was struck head-on by a drunk driver. He survived the collision. But after five surgeries in one week—including the partial amputation of his left leg—Evan didn’t know if he would compete again.
Soon after, Evan discovered adaptive sports, and in 2007, he moved to Lake Tahoe to pursue adaptive snowboarding. After over a decade of competing, Evan came home from Sochi with gold and is now leading the pack in para snowboard cross. In the off-season, Evan works with teammate Amy Purdy’s nonprofit Adaptive Action Sports, coaching and mentoring the next generation of athletes.
Name: Oksana Masters
Event: Para Nordic Skiing
Birthdate: June 19, 1989
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Previous Paralympics: 3
Oksana was born with a number of physical impairments due to radiation exposure from the Chernobyl incident in Ukraine, and she spent the first years of her life in an orphanage. When she was seven, she met her adopted mother and moved to the United States. As she continued to grow, her impairments started to dangerously influence her overall health, and her legs had to be amputated above the knee. It was during this trying time that she was introduced to adaptive rowing and her passion for competing was ignited.
After competing throughout high school and setting a world record in 2010, she joined Team USA for the Paralympic Games London 2012. “I got into Nordic skiing by mistake. I was doing an event for USRowing after London, and a coach overheard my interest in skiing and invited me out on the snow.” Oksana quickly fell in love, and her passion and tenacity took her to the world stage. “When I was chosen to represent Team USA for para nordic skiing, I was shocked. I had spent less than a year on snow and learning the sport.” In Sochi, she received her first medals as a Winter Paralympian.
Masters' PyeongChang turn has already been a success, winning silver in the 6K biathlon and bronze in 12K cross-country skiing.
February 4, 1981
Rico Roman is a father, retired Army staff sergeant and gold medalist—in that order. While on his third tour in Iraq, an IED explosion severely wounded him, leading doctors to amputate his left leg above the knee. Once he got back home safely, a veterans group named Operation Comfort introduced him to sled hockey. “I didn’t play hockey. I didn’t grow up watching hockey. And, honestly, I said no a good ten times before I finally gave it a try. I was instantly hooked.”
After only eight months, Rico’s coaches could tell he had potential and encouraged him to try out for the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team. He didn’t make the cut on his first try, but that only made him more determined. After a year of pushing himself on and off the ice, he earned his spot on the team. “I went from being a benchwarmer—knowing nothing about hockey—to starting in the gold medal match.” The U.S. team took home gold in Sochi after shutting out Russia 1 to 0. “I remember looking into the stands and seeing my children’s faces, with their big smiles, and seeing the gold medal. I want to be able to do that again, to share that moment with my children again.”
Name: Stephanie Jallen
Event: Para Alpine Skiing
Birthdate: February 13, 1996
Hometown: Harding, Pennsylvania
Previous Paralympics: 1
Stephanie Jallen isn’t one to let physical impairments deter her athletic ambitions. She was born with CHILD syndrome, which left one side of her body underdeveloped and prompted a leg amputation. With a natural drive to overcome adversity, Stephanie insisted on learning to ski standing up and eventually made her international debut as a para alpine skier in 2011. Three years later, she earned two medals in the Paralympic Winter Games as the second youngest member on the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team. “My community and the people who made it possible for me to compete are the ones who inspire me to be my best in skiing.”
Now, at 21 years old, she is representing Team USA for the second time at the Paralympic Winter Games. “Being able to represent my country on the big stage means everything to me, as I have dedicated my life to being the best athlete I could be.”
Yesterday, Jallen took fifth in the super combined.