Prince William Co. high school welcomes home Paralympics gold medalist

With a gold medal around his neck and crutches under his arms, high school senior Evan Nichols was escorted by a drum line and cheerleaders through the hallways of Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Virginia, days after returning from the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

As students and teachers cheered, Nichols accepted warm-wishes from Prince William County public schoolmates, after spending about two months away.

“There was one month where we were training in Nashville. We were living together, practicing every day. Then we went over to China. I feel like living together really builds a teammate,” he said, answering reporters’ questions in an impromptu school hallway news conference.

Nichols was the youngest player on the 2022 Paralympics sled hockey roster.

Born with arthrogryposis, a condition that affects a person’s joints, he ambled past classrooms, reuniting with friends.

“I’ve been gone for about two months. And the couple days I came back, I quarantined myself, to keep everyone safe,” he said, during an interview at a cafeteria table.

Nichols reflected on what he has missed from the life of a typical high school student in the eight years he has spent pursuing an Olympic dream.

“It’s been a little bit of a sacrifice, but I feel like this is what I really wanted to do. Sacrifices have to be made to achieve your dreams,” he said.

Nichols said his teachers “have been really great,” while he’s been striving for a gold medal. “I was given a couple assignments while I was gone — nothing too hard.”

He’s said he’s been thankful most classmates have “been treating me pretty normally, which I appreciate.”

His close friends “still talk to me like I’m their friend, the whole time,” and say he looks at this as “another experience to have in my high school career.”

He expects he will soon resume training, to try out for next year’s U.S. team.

For now, he’s fighting jet lag.

“I’ve been staying up late, which I don’t really want to. I feel like after a couple weeks I’ll get back into the rhythm of everything — homework, getting to school, stuff like that.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up