WHISTLER CREEKSIDE, B.C., Canada -- Two-time Paralympic medalist, Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah), has a silver medal to add to her collection from today's Slalom races in the sitting division. Victor finished her two runs in 2:12.63, trailing Austria's Claudia Loesch (2:12.05) by just 0.58. The bronze medal when to Japan's Kuniko Obinata, who finished with a time of 2:18.60 (+6.55).
"Life is good. I can't complain at all. I would have liked it to have been gold for the U.S., but that's how it goes," Victor said after the race.
After placing first in the training run earlier in the day, a slight mistake near the middle of the course cost Victor the gold medal. "A little hesitation cost me the race, but I wanted to make sure I was on my line and because I wasn't sure and hesitated, that ate up all my time," she said.
Victor, a gold medalist in Slalom from Torino and bronze medalist in Downhill from Salt Lake, was confident and prepared for today's events. "There are a lot of nerves for a defending gold medalist, but I have trained, I have prepared, I have studied this course," she said after the first run.
Her preparation though, couldn't help the weather conditions and the more difficult course set in the afternoon. A heavy, wet snow began to fall just before the start of the second run, shortening visibility and changing course conditions to a softer surface. The afternoon course set also had more turns and was wider than the morning's set.
"The set this morning was very nice. It had a nice flow," Victor said. "This one had a lot of tricks and I knew I had to pay attention. I'd hit all the key points up above and this one was really critical. I just didn't have it committed to memory the way it was."
Victor's win is the first for the U.S. Alpine team. Ray Watkins, the team's head coach, credited Victor's experience and determination with today's win. "She's a fighter. Today she had to come out and fight on both runs. She's one of the strongest Slalom skiers in the world and she just made a quick little mistake, in the heat of the moment that cost her, but a silver medal is really special," Watkins said. "We're thrilled for her and can't wait to see her collect it tonight."
Of the 17 competitors in the women's event, the U.S. team put in a strong showing with Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.) placing fifth and Luba Lowery (Cumberland Foreside, Maine/Denver, Colo.), Alana Nichols (Farmington, N.M), and
Ricci Kilgore (Reno, Nev) following in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
On the men's side, Team USA had two top-ten finishers. Carl Burnett (Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Bend, Ore), went from 18th place after the first run to an impressive ninth place in the final.
"I'm super stoked," Burnett said. "I knew if I could just put the hammer down and blast through those ruts and bumps and keep the ski aligned, it would be good enough to move up a few spots - I didn't expect nine spots. I'm really happy."
Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.) placed 10th.
The gold medal went to Germany's Martin Braxenthaler with a time of 1:41.63. The silver was awarded to Josh Dueck of Canada (1:46.26, +4.66) and the bronze to Phillipp Bonadimann (1:46.34, +4.71) of Austria.
"Today was a rough day," Watkins said. "The course conditions were really variable and it was a rodeo ride the whole way down.
"You have to fight and that's what our team likes to do and we're going to come out and fight tomorrow too," he added.
Today's racing wraps up the first day of competition at Whistler Creekside after Saturday's Downhill event was postponed due to poor weather conditions.
1. Claudia Loesch (Austria) 2:12.05
2. Stephani Victor (USA) 2:12.63, +0.58.
3. Kuniko Obinata (Japan) 2:18.60, +6.55.
2. Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah) 2:12.63, +0.58
5. Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.) 2:28.89, +16.84
7. Luba Lowery (Cumberland Foreside, Maine/Denver, Colo.) 2:43.49, +31.44
8. Alana Nichols (Farmington, N.M.) 2:46.41, +34.36
9. Ricci Kilgore (Reno, Nev.) 2:52.70, +40.65
1. Martin Braxenthaler (Germany) 1:41.63
2. Josh Dueck (Canada) 1:46.26, +4.66
3. Phillipp Bonadimann (Austria) 1:46.34, +4.71
9. Carl Burnett (Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Bend, Ore.) 1:53.27, +11.64
10. Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.) 1:53.34, +11.71
16. Gerald Hayden (Winter Park, Colo.) 1:57.04, +15.41
DNF: Chris Devlin-Young (San Diego, Calif./ Campton, N.H.)
DNF: Heath Calhoun (Grundy, Va./Aspen, Colo.)