Former Oiler Andy Soule wins gold at Paralympics

PEARLAND — Pearland's Andy Soule graduated from Pearland High School in 1999. He competed as a member of the cross country and track teams for the Oilers.

Soule continued his education at Texas A&M University and was a member of the Corps of Cadets. He was a student at A&M when the September 11 attacks occurred. At the end of that school year, Soule enlisted in the Army and after completing basic training, he was deployed to Afghanistan.

On May 21, 2005, Soule was on patrol when his Hummer was struck by an improvised explosive device. The explosion killed was of his fellow soldiers, and tragically destroyed Soule's legs leading to their amputation above the knees, while two other solders were slightly wounded.

It was during his time of rehabilitation time that Soule took up handcycling and it was in 2005 that he attended a development camp of the Wood River Ability Program which was conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Adaptive Cross Country Ski Team.

With very little skiing experience, Soule excelled at the new sport and later moved to Sun Valley, Idaho to train full-time.

Despite having to adjust to physical challenges, the determined Soule began to excel in competition as he placed second at the 2007 U.S. Championships. He was named to the national cross-country ski team where he finished 12th in the World Cup standing.

Soule represented the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where he competed in cross-country skiing and the biathlon. He won the bronze medal in men's sitting pursuit on the opening day of the Paralympics, becoming the first American to win a biathlon medal in either the Olympic or the Paralympic Games.

Soule finally got over the hump and won his first career Paralympic gold. The Houston native and Pearland High alum unleashed a powerful surge and leaned at the line to win gold. Soule crossed the line of the 1.1km sprint in 3:31.4, an identical time with Dzmitry Loban of Belarus, but Soule was awarded the win in a photo finish.

The gold medal is Soule's first after winning bronze in the 2010 Vancouver Games and missing out in the 2014 Sochi Games.

"It means so much. It feels so incredible," Soule said. "I couldn't do it without incredible teammates pushing me all the time, and without incredible coaching and technical staff. I think it speaks to a great team effort that has really paid off for us."

American Dan Cnossen had a strong lead heading into the stadium; however, three competitors, including Soule, pulled alongside him and made it an even race for the line.

"I definitely lost a little gas in the final stretch," Cnossen said. "My strategy was to tuck in behind the Belarus athlete in the beginning and then sprint over the bridge and try to hang on. Andy had such an awesome race. This is the second day in a row we've had two U.S. men on the podium which is just phenomenal."

Soule said before the 2018 Paralympic Games that he felt he was in the right shape at the right time, and it helped him in the final push.

"That was an interesting race, an interesting tactical race," Soule said. "I chased the whole way. I don't think it necessarily hurt me to chase that much, it actually helped with a little bit of wind break. I think a good, tight tuck coming down the final hill put me in a natural line, and I knew I had a shot at a good sprint out."

Soule, who graduated Pearland High in 1999 and attended Texas A&M for three years in the Corps of Cadets, is a double amputee. He lost both of his legs beneath the kneecaps while standing in the back of the humvee as it journeyed down a path in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, shattering both of his legs beneath. Soule was in the U.S. Army and received the Purple Heart. He is discharged from the Army.

Soule is the son of Robert and Debra Soule. He has two brothers, Patrick and Ian. He is married to Lauren Soule and they make their home in Kerrville, Texas.