Army veteran wins medal in biathlon at Paralympics 

5/1/2010 

 

Andy Soule did it.

More than that, the 29-year-old Army veteran who lost both legs in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Afghanistan, won the Bronze Medal – the first in American history – in the biathlon when he captured the bronze in the men’s sitting pursuit biathlon – that includes cross country skiing and rifle shooting – in the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Soule, from Pearland, Texas, enlisted in the Army in 2002 after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As reported by US Paralympics, Soule was attending classes at the university when the two hijacked planes hit the buildings in the heart of New York’s financial district and one other was flown into the Pentagon.

Admittedly, following these tragedies, Soule wanted to give something back to his country, so, he said, "After September 11 happened, I decided I wanted to take a different direction [with my life] for a while and that’s when I decided to join the Army."

Following basic training, he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While on a security patrol and riding as a gunner in a Humvee, on May 21, 2005, in the Shinkay District of Afghanistan, his vehicle was hit with an IED.

As a result of the devastating explosion’s impact, Soule was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, then to the states.

 Andy Soule biathlon
Andy Soule, who has been training in biathlon since 2005, won a bronze medal in the 1.49-mile event at the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. He is the first American in history to win a medal in biathlon.

After having both legs amputated above the knees, he received several years of therapy and rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

While at BAMC, the Army veteran who never aspired to become an elite athlete, took an interest in several sports and, specifically, hand cycling.

While participating in a riding event in San Antonio, he met Marc Mast, the director of the Wood River Ability Program, who urged and inspired Soule to get involved with cross country skiing.

Never attempting cross country skiing prior to his injuries, Soule decided to give it a try with Mast’s encouragement.

"Marc thought I had the potential as a cross country skier. He runs a camp every winter for the U.S. Adaptive Cross Country Ski Team to develop new athletes and he invited me," Soule told US Paralympics.

Realizing he had the potential, after completing camp, he moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he trained full time at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.

He began competing with impressive results in France, Alaska, and Norway and at the 2007 U.S. Championships, and he had two consecutive top-10 finishes in his first World Cup races.

Soule then earned a position on the U.S. Paralympics Cross Country Skiing National Team in 2008.

"It feels great to be able to be on a U.S. elite sport team," Soule said at the time. "It’s a very different sort of thing, but it is something I can take and continue to challenge myself in a different way."

Setting his sights on representing the United States at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver he began a grueling training program – six days a week – over 600 hours a year.

Using skis with a special chair mounted on them, and shooting a rifle, the former Army combat veteran received a place in history at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.