Thomas Walsh and Andrew Earl Kurka headlined an exceptional performance for the USA at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals in Aspen on Wednesday (24 February), as the hosts grabbed a total of five podiums in giant slalom.
Having only made his World Cup debut in January 2016, Walsh has taken the circuit by storm. He has sealed a number of top three finishes in technical races including one win in the men’s slalom standing.
The 21-year-old was back on top once again at Aspen Mountain with the two quickest runs, claiming his first giant slalom triumph in 1:36.68.
“I’m a small guy so I think that attributes to be more advantageous on the technical hill,” Walsh said. “This course has a lot of rollers and fall-away turns and I think that’s where I have an opportunity to succeed more than just on a flatter course.”
Australia’s double Paralympian Mitchell Gourley (1:37.99) was second, ahead of Russia’s world champion Aleksei Bugaev (1:38.03).
In the women’s standing France’s world and Paralympic gold medallist Marie Bochet (1:43.78) continued her unbeaten season run.
“It’s been an amazing season for me,” Bochet said. “I’m very happy because I know how much progress I’ve made this winter and that I can do my best skiing in this race, which is my goal for this winter. A day like today [Wednesday], it’s perfect weather.”
Bochet looked ahead to Thursday (25 February) when a second giant slalom will be contested: “We had very good conditions for the giant slalom and I’m so happy we have two races in two days. I think every athlete had a lot of fun on this course.”
Canada’s Alana Ramsay (1:53.51) led Stephanie Jallen (1:54.86), who collected another podium for the USA in third.
Kurka (1:41.53) came back from a fifth-place first run to claim victory in the men’s sitting. The 24-year-old led his World Cup debutant teammate Joshua Elliott (1:42.11) into second.
“It helps that this is my home mountain,” Kurka said. “To come here and have two guys from Team USA putting down a podium, especially Josh [Elliott] being a rookie, I’m supper happy for him. It’s awesome and I’m happy to have him as a new edition on the team.”
Japan’s Taiki Morii (1:42.95) was third.
Morii’s teammate Momoka Muraoka (1:55.51) claimed first in the women’s sitting, continuing her run of World Cup podiums.
Germany’s Paralympic bronze medallist Anna-Lena Forster (1:59.70) was second. The USA’s Laurie Stephens (2:00.02) was third.
Italian points leader Giacomo Bertagnolli, guided by Fabrizio Casal, picked up his third giant slalom victory of the season in the men’s visually impaired.
Bertagnolli (1:39.52) once again led Russia’s world champion Valerii Redkozubov (1:41.33), guided by Evgeny Geroev.
“It was fantastic. I very much enjoyed the course and felt good about today. I’m very happy with my performance,” Bertagnolli said. “I’m very happy with today and hope tomorrow [Thursday] goes even better.”
Spain’s Yon Santacana Maiztegui (1:47.27), guided by Miguel Galindo, was third.
Menna Fitzpatrick (1:51.81) led an all-British podium in the women’s visually impaired with guide Jennifer Kehoe.
The win is the 17-year-old’s third World Cup victory of the season after she twice finished atop the podium in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January.
Millie Knight (1:58.75), another youngster at 17, was second guided by Mike Abromowitz.
Super-G Paralympic champion Kelly Gallagher (1:58.84) returned with a new guide, Gary Smith, to claim third.
Full results are available at www.paralympic.org/alpine-skiing/calendar-and-results.
The final giant slalom races of the 2015-16 World Cup will take place on Thursday (25 February). Slalom will conclude competition on Friday (26 February), before the speed World Cup Finals get underway on Tuesday (1 March), also in Aspen.