GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WBAY) Green Bay’s own Penny Greely will represent the United States in the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and she’s got her eyes on a gold medal finish.
“You want the highest honor of getting the gold medal,” three-time Paralympian Penny Greely said. “That's our ultimate goal, is to get that.”
To date, the United States wheelchair curling medal count stands at 0. Since the introduction of the sport to the Winter Paralympic games in 2006, the USA has come close to medaling just once, missing out on bronze in 2010.
“It’s extremely important,” Greely said. “It's what you work so hard for and the hours and hours of practice and commitment, so yes we want a gold medal for sure."
Penny Greely's personal medal count stands at one. The three-time Paralympian made her debut in the Athens Summer Games, winning bronze in sitting volleyball. The next time she popped up on the Paralympic scene it was as a winter athlete on the USA’s wheelchair curling team competing in Sochi.
This sport of inches has already taken Greely to over a dozen countries, and soon she will get to add South Korea to that list, beginning competition on her birthday.
“I had my accident well over 20 years ago,” Greely said. “I never would have imagined where that would take me. I've been very, very fortunate and blessed in my life that I’ve been able to do this and represent my country three times in two sports that I absolutely love.”
Greely didn’t always love wheelchair curling.
“How did curling get me?” Greely asked. “Oh, I was playing a little wheelchair basketball. I got an interest flyer for recruiting because I had that Paralympic blood in me from sitting volleyball. I thought I would just come down and check it out. I didn't know anything about curling, and I was hooked right off the bat.”
What's the difference between able-bodied curling and wheelchair curling?
“Able-bodied curling, obviously there's sweepers,” Greely said. “It's a lot louder you have a lot of broom sweeping that can help or direct the stone. Wheelchair curling, it's basically muscle memory, so in my mind it's a little more difficult because wherever you throw the stone is where it's going to end up.”
Wheelchair curling is also mixed sport meaning men and women play on the same team, so there's only 5 spots up for grabs on Team USA.
“Being the only one from Green Bay on the USA curling team, I can't be more proud,” Greely said.
Greely also couldn’t be more exhausted. The Paralympic athlete is booked up through March 18th.
“I have two leagues per night,” Greely said. “I'm practicing. I'm here at the club almost every day practicing, and then I work a full-time, 40 hour a week job. Through basically the time I leave for Pyeongchang, I am a busy woman.”
For now, it’s all about a gold medal finish, but what's next for USA’s wheelchair curling sensation? That remains to be seen.
“As long as you can throw a 40-pound stone and be accurate you could do it, 'til I’m old and gray,” Greely said. “How long I’ll do it, I’m not sure.”