Team USA started the 2014 off strong with 10 first-place finishes at the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing NorAm Cup in Winter Park, Colo. Jan. 1-3.
Three-time Paralympic gold medalist Alana Nichols returned to the slopes for her first race since tearing three ligaments in her shoulder during a training accident in Mount Hood, Ore. last summer. Nichols took second in Wednesday’s sitting slalom race, and came back to finish atop the podium in Thursday’s giant slalom race.
Two-time Paralympian Ralph Green skied strong over the three days of competition, with a podium finish each day. Green started with a third place finish in the men’s standing slalom and added a silver and bronze in the men’s giant slalom.
Jasmin Bambur won gold in the men’s sitting slalom race on Wednesday as he finished more than five seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Corey Peters. After faltering on the first day of giant slalom where he did not finish the second run, he returned to the slopes to take silver in the second day of giant slalom competition.
In the men’s visually impaired division, Larry Martin and his guide Cole Steven had a close battle with Jeffrey Petersen and his guide Jason Wright throughout the three days of competition. Martin and Peterson finished within seconds of one another each day, with Martin winning the slalom and second giant slalom titles, and Peterson winning the first giant slalom title.
Jamie Stanton followed up his gold medal from the Copper Mountain NorAm Cup last month with another giant slalom win. Stanton took first place in Thursday’s giant slalom, with Green less than a second behind in the runner-up spot.
Melanie Schwartz who competed for Canada at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, secured two wins this week. Schwartz took top honors in the women’s standing slalom and in the second day of giant slalom.
Other athletes picking up wins included Staci Mannella and guide Kim Seevers in the second day of the women’s visually impaired giant slalom and Katrina Schaber in the first day of the women’s standing giant slalom.
While the NorAm is not a world cup, athletes will earn points that help determine world rankings and qualification for IPC Alpine Skiing World Cups and Paralympic events. Scoring is based on finishing place, with athletes aiming for as few points as possible. To qualify for world cups and ultimately the Paralympic Winter Games in each discipline, athletes must remain under a certain point threshold.
The U.S. team that will compete in alpine skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will be named in February. The next event for the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team will be the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Panorama, Canada Jan. 10-14.