Preview

After a 10-medal showing at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team returns with a strong contingent heading into the home stretch before PyeongChang 2018. Eleven members of the U.S. national team competed in Sochi, including four out of seven medalists led by two silver medals won by Mark Bathum and guide Cade Yamamoto.

Team USA comes off winning five medals—one gold, one silver and three bronze—in January at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy. Andrew Kurka led the charge for the U.S. with a medal of each color, capturing his first world title with gold in the men’s sitting downhill competition. Though named to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team, Kurka will seek to compete in his first Games after being injured in a training run ahead of competition in Sochi.

The U.S. women continued to show their depth, closing out the 2015-16 season by winning the overall Nations Cup awarded to the country that accumulates the highest total world cup points. Danelle Umstead guided by her husband Rob Umstead earned the team’s lone individual world cup title with a slalom win in the women’s visually impaired class at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado.

In PyeongChang, Paralympic alpine competition consists of 30 medal events for men and women including three speed disciplines and two technical disciplines. Speed events are downhill, super-G and super combined with visually impaired, sitting and standing divisions in each. Technical events are slalom and giant slalom with the same three divisions.

 

Storylines

  • Young and Ready: Several of Team USA’s most promising athletes contending for a place on the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team are under the age of 25. Six of the youngest members on the national team represented the red, white and blue at Sochi 2014, led by then 18-year-old Stephanie Jallen, the second youngest member of the team behind Staci Mannella, who won two bronze medals. That same group collected four of Team USA’s five medals won at the 2017 world championships and has stacked 14 podium performances during the 2016-17 world cup season.
  • Golden Friendship: U.S. Paralympic hopeful Thomas Walsh hopes to follow the same path to PyeongChang as his childhood friend, Mikaela Shiffrin. Walsh, who’s first racing coach was Shiffrin’s mother in Vail, Colorado, has been close with the Olympic gold medalist since preschool. When he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2009, Shiffrin was by his side during treatments and once he was in complete remission, Walsh took her to his school prom. He was even able to attend all of Shiffrin’s races at Sochi 2014 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
  • Ski Mom: Danelle Umstead is not only a mom to her nine-year-old son Brocton, but she’s also considered the team “mom” and a mentor to U.S. teammate Staci Mannella. Manella considers Umstead one of her closest friends and rivals as they compete in the same visually impaired class. “We have a really unique relationship because she’s the person I look up to most,” Manella said. After Mannella parted ways with her guide from the 2014 Games, she turned to Umstead who was able to pair her with another promising skier and her next door neighbor, Sadie DeBaun.



Athletes To Watch
Stephanie Jallen
One of the breakout stars of Sochi 2014, Jallen made her Paralympic debut at 18 years old, winning two bronze medals in women’s standing super-G and super combined. Jallen was named the Best Female Paralympian at the Best of U.S. Awards for her achievements in Russia. The college junior followed up her Sochi performance at the 2015 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships with a bronze medal in giant slalom and will look to build on her success in PyeongChang.

Andrew Kurka
Kurka first had his sights set on becoming an Olympic wrestler. A six-time Alaskan state champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, his dream changed at age 13 when he was paralyzed from the waist down in an ATV accident while heading out on a fishing trip. Two years after the accident, Kurka tried skiing and immediately fell in love with speed. Named to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team, he injured his back on a training run ahead of competition at Sochi 2014. Despite setbacks with injuries, Kurka has won four world championships medals in the men’s sitting class, including his first world title and a three-medal performance in 2017.

Staci Mannella and guide Sadie DeBaun 
The youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team at the Sochi 2014 Games, Staci Mannella is already one of the top visually impaired skiers in the world at 20 years old. Mannella splits her time on the snow and on the saddle as a member of the Dartmouth College equestrian team. She is in her second season skiing behind guide Sadie DeBaun who has been leading her down the slopes since she parted ways with former guide Kim Seevers – nearly 40 years her senior – following the Sochi Games. The partnership has proved successful as Mannella won bronze in super combined in her world championship debut in 2017.

Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead
A veteran skier in the women’s visually impaired class, two-time Paralympian Umstead has competed at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games with her husband and guide Rob, winning three medals in super combined and downhill. The pair, who met while skiing in Taos, New Mexico and were married at the top of Snowbird Mountain in Utah, have a son Brocton. She won her first world championships medals in 2015 where she won two silver and one bronze followed by another bronze-medal performance in 2017.

Thomas Walsh
In just under two seasons, Walsh has already made his name known on the international scene, garnering eight world cup podium appearances and finishing his debut season ranked No. 2 in slalom and No. 3 in giant slalom in the men’s standing class. The Colorado native was considered a rising star on the U.S. Ski And Snowboard Association and the International Ski Federation junior circuits as a teenager before he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. After 14 months, Walsh, was declared cancer-free and left with hip and leg impairments, sets his sights back on the slopes where he qualified for the U.S. national team in 2015.


Qualification

National Paralympic Committees can receive a maximum of 20 male qualification slots and 10 female qualification slots with a total of 30 medal events being offered for alpine skiing at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Exceptions may be made via the Bipartite Commission Invitation Allocation method. Each NPC can enter a maximum of five eligible athletes per medal event. Athletes can qualify for the 2018 Games through the following: the 2016-17 World Para Alpine Skiing Nations Ranking Allocation, 2016-17 WPAS Ranking Factor Allocation and Bipartite Invitation Commission Allocation.


Selection

To be eligible for selection to the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team, an athlete must hold a valid WPAS license for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons; have achieved race points in at least one race of the 2017-18 season by Feb. 19, 2018; be at least 16 years of age by Dec. 31 2017 and be internationally classified with either a ‘confirmed’ sport class status or a ‘review’ sport class status with a review date after the 2017-18 season.

For speed events, an athlete must be ranked and have achieved 220 WPAS points for men and 240 WPAS points for women or less either on the WPAS slalom ranking list or on the WPAS giant slalom ranking list as of Feb. 19, 2018.

For technical events, an athlete must be ranked and have achieved 140 WPAS points for men and 180 WPAS points for women or less either on the WPAS downhill ranking list or on the WPAS super-G ranking list or on the WPAS super combined ranking list (only for super combined) as of Feb. 19, 2018.

At the time of selection, an athlete must be a national of the United States, with a valid U.S. Passport that will not expire on or prior to Oct. 18, 2018, and meet the minimum standards of the International Paralympic Committee, as the international governing body for the Paralympic Winter Games and the international federation for Paralympic Alpine Skiing.

The U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games no later than February 23, 2018.


Key Dates

2017

March 11-18

Test Event/World Para Snowboard World Cup Finals (PyeongChang, South Korea)

March 28-31

U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championships [technical events] (Mammoth, California)

May 1

Closing date of the 2016-17 WPAS world ranking lists for qualification slot allocation

2018

February 19

Deadline for athletes to achieve race points in at least one race of the 2017-18 season for eligibility purposes.
February 23 IPC sport entries deadline for 2018 Paralympic Winter Games