Nichols grabs first World Cup win

Jan. 21, 2010, 1:20 p.m. (ET)

SESTRIERE, Italy - U.S. Adaptive Alpine Ski Team member Alana Nichols (Farmington, NM; sit-ski) clinched her first World Cup win in Thursday's downhill race in Sestriere. Heath Calhoun (Snowmass Village, CO; sit-ski) was the top U.S. male finisher in 13th.

Joining Nichols in the top spot in the sit-ski classification was Switzerland's Christoph Kunz. The standing division was won by Germany's Gerd Schoenfelder and Canada's Lauren Woolstencroft. The visually impaired category winners were Spain's Jon Santacana and Slovakia's Henrieta Farkasova.

Nichols sealed the deal, winning her first World Cup in her first season racing on the World Cup circuit. Nichols charged forward after breaking her ski in Wednesday's downhill, forcing her to use her back-up ski that she and her coaches mounted on Wednesday night, the night before the race.

"She broke her ski yesterday, so we had her on a different downhill ski today. After inspection she made a couple good warm up runs," explained Head Coach Ray Watkins.  "We just talked about focusing on fundamentals. She laid down a good run and won."

Nichols fought through a slump in Austria to find herself listening to the National Anthem on the podium in Sestriere. Although she has little experience on the World Cup circuit, Nichols showed great signs of confidence, maturity and promise as she nuked the course, beating the field by two seconds.

"I knew the course inside and out, it was just a matter of executing," said Nichols. "I had it memorized in my head. I was just ready to ski tactically on the sections I needed to ski smart and to rail on the ones I could go fast on."

Nichols was joined by Danelle Umstead (Taos, NM; visually impaired) and Allison Jones (Winter Park, CO; standing) in the top ten. Calhoun was the U.S. men's top finisher breaking into the top 15 in 13th.

The U.S. Adaptive Alpine Team will be in the starting gate again on Friday, racing in the super combined, with a little edge against fellow competitors. The U.S. was assigned the course set of the super G portion of the race.

"This is my first World Cup season. I'm just taking it in. I am so thankful and blessed to be here," confessed Nichols. "To represent my country and to be on the podium tonight,it just tops it all off. It was amazing."

World Cup
Sestriere, Italy
January 21, 2010

Men Sit-Ski

1. Christoph Kunz, Switzerland, 1:13.94
2. Akira Kano, Japan, 1:14.61
3. Reinhold Sampl, Austria, 1:14.74
4. Nicolas Loussalez, France, 1:14.76
5. Martin Braxenthaler, Germany, 1:15.02
13. Heath Calhoun, Snowmass Village, CO, 1:18.12
17. Joe Tompkins, Juneau, AK, 1:19.14
27. Chris Devlin-Young, Campton, NH, 1:32.65
DNF: Tyler Walker, Franconia, NH, Nick Catanzarite, Winter Park, CO, Carl Burnett, Winter Park, CO, Gregory Peck, Wasilla, AK

Men Standing

1. Gerd Schoenfelder, Germany, 1:13.89
2. Toby Kane, Australia, 1:15.69
3. Michael Bruegger, Switzerland, 1:15.79
4. Cameron Rahles-Rahbula, Australia, 1:15.84
5. Lionel Brun, France, 1:16.07
16. Monte Meier, Park City, UT, 1:20.30
21. John Whitney, Towson, MD, 1:22.43
22. George Sansonetis, Fraser, CO, 1:22.75
27. Ralph Green, Vail, CO, 1:26.35

Men Visually Impaired

1. Jon Santacana, Spain, 1:12.67
2. Chris Williamson, Canada, 1:13.76
3. Miroslav Haraus, Slovakia, 1:15.31
4. Jakub Krako, Slovakia, 1:15.62
5. Michal Beladic, Slovakia, 1:18.43

Women Sit-Ski

1. Alana Nichols, Farmington, NM, 1:22.44
2. Kuniko Obinata, Japan, 1:24.22
3. Claudia Loesch, Austria, 1:25.55
DNF: Stephani Victor, Park City, UT, Laurie Stephens, Wenham, MA

Women Standing

1. Lauren Woolstencroft, Canada, 1:20.00
2. Andrea Rothfuss, Germany, 1:22.84
3. Karolina Wisniewska, Canada, 1:23.50
4. Melania Corradini, Italy, 1:23.55
5. Solene Jambaque, France, 1:24.03
7. Allison Jones, Winter Park, CO, 1:25.92

Women Visually Impaired

1. Henrieta Farkasova, Slovakia, 1:20.30
2. Anna Kuliskova, Czech Republic, 1:20.73
3. Viviane Forest, Canada, 1:25.64
4. Melissa Perrina, Australia, 1:26.14
5. Danelle Umstead, Taos, NM, 1:28.36