WHISTLER CREEKSIDE, B.C., Canada (March 18, 2010) – Members of the 2010 U.S. Paralympic Team for Alpine have been talking all week about their love of the speed events. In Thursday’s downhill they proved that it wasn’t all talk. Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.), competing in his first Paralympic Winter Games at age 51, and his guide Slater Storey (Sun Valley, Idaho) claimed the USA men’s first alpine medal of the Games with a silver in the men’s visually impaired downhill. Also finishing on the podium today were Danelle Umstead (Taos, N.M.) and her husband / guide Rob Umstead, who made a couple of mistakes, but still pulled out a great run to claim the bronze medal in the women’s visually impaired downhill.
“We've been skiing downhill great,” stated an elated Bathum. “So we were really looking forward to today. This course is great, it's a true downhill. It's got a great test of speed, a great test of skill. It flows with the hill so easily. It's a really fun place to race downhill. I'm thrilled to get a silver here in Canada.”
“I’m so happy. If I could cry, I would cry,” said Danelle Umstead, who crashed out in her two other races this week. “I’m so happy right now. I can’t believe we did it. We’ve been working really hard. Last year at the World Cup finals we were eight seconds back and this year, look where we are now. It’s pretty amazing.”
The day was an overall success as the USA women’s sit-skiers went one-two in the downhill with Alana Nichols taking gold and Laurie Stephens the silver (NOTE: for more on the sit-ski results, see usparalympics.org).
“I'm really proud of Alana and Laurie, it was a heartbreaker for Stephani (Victor) to miss out by just a little bit,” said U.S. Paralympic Team coach Ray Watkins regarding the overall success of the USA team today. “For (Mark) Bathum to come in there, that's awesome. Rob (Umstead) and Danelle (Umstead) had a good run, they could have skied better, but they did their best. The sitting men (race) was kind of a heartbreaker. Chris (Devlin-Young) was up at the split and leading. He just took it a little too deep over the last bump and basically gave it away. He was going all out and that's what we want our folks to do. Paralympics is not about top 10's. It's about getting on the podium. We're on the podium, we get to hear our song and at the end of the day that's what we work for. It's good, I'm really happy.”
Bathum and Storey missed out on the top spot by less than a half second. Taking gold in a time of 1:18.23 were Spain’s Jon Santacana Maiztegui and his guide Miguel Galindo Garces, just 0.40 ahead of Bathum and Storey’s time of 1:18.63. Claiming the bronze were Gerd Gradwohl and his guide Karl-Heinz Vachenaur of Germany (1:20.40, +2.17).
Out of a field of 12, the USA duo was in first with six sets of skiers yet to run the course. They had to wait until the eventual gold medalists, the second to last skiers to race after being yellow flagged and getting a rerun, came down.
“After awhile you know who is able to make the podium,” commented Bathum. “I think there was one racer shortly after us, then one who got a rerun, who we knew could ski well enough to win. Unfortunately one of them did. But they're very good skiers and very nice guys.”
Capturing gold in the women’s visually impaired race was Canada’s Viviane Forest and her guide Lindsay Debou in a time of 1:27.51; Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova and her guide Natalia Subrtova took the silver (1:28.17 (+0.66); while the Umsteads finished in 1:30.18 (+2.67).
“I like the downhill and all the speed events,” added Denelle Umstead). “I seem to stay up better when I’m going a lot faster. It was a little firmer than I expected and a lot faster. I didn’t fall today, woo hoo!”
Caitlin Sarubbi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and guide Gwynn Watkins (Mt. Shasta, Calif.) did not finish after Sarubbi skied off the course right above Hot Air.
“I was just trying to give it my all,” said Sarubbi. “Then I got sideways on that gate, I lost where I was and missed the gate. It was right before the finish, too. Right before Hot Air. But tomorrow is the super-G, so I have to just keep pushing forward.”
Canada’s Lauren Woolstencroft collected gold in slalom and giant slalom here in Whistler and added to her gold medal haul today in the standing downhill in a time of 1:25.54. She was followed by France’s Solene Jambaque (1:29.94, +4.40) in silver and Germany’s Andrea Rothfuss took the bronze (1:30.58, +5.04).
Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who is just beginning to get into the speed events, finished in fifth place in the standing women’s downhill, bettering her seventh place finish in the event four years ago in Torino. Elitsa Storey (Sun Valley, Idaho) was scheduled to race today, but did not start.
“(I’m) Ecstatic,” said Jones. “It was a great race for me. I haven’t been expected to do well in downhill and as of this year I found something l like in speed (events) and I put it down the hill.
“I'm so excited for those guys,” added Jones on the success of her teammates in today’s downhill. “Especially Rob and Danelle after coming out of the tech (events) and not having great tech, falling in both races. She just put one down. She had to have been smiling from ear to ear. I'm happy for her.”
In the men’s standing downhill German Paralympic skiing legend Gerd Schonfelder picked up his 20th Paralympic medal, 14th gold, winning in 1:20.80. He now has two gold medals and one silver medal in the 2010 Parlympic Games. Tying for silver with a time of 1:22.78 (+1.98) were Australia’s Marty Mayberry and Switzerland’s Michael Brugger.
Brad Washburn (Winter Park, Colo.) topped the USA men’s standing downhillers, finishing in 14th place with a time of 1:26.40 (+5.60). George Sansonetis (Fraser, Colo.), at 1:28.47 (+7.67), and Monte Meier (Park City, Utah), at 1:28.48 (+7.68), finished in 21st and 22nd place, respectively.
Skiing continues for the visually impaired athletes with the super-g on March 19, standing athletes will race the super-g on March 20 and the super combined for all athletes will be held on March 21. (NOTE: All race schedules are subject to change due to the weather.)
RESULTS: Downhill Visually Impaired & Standing
Downhill: Women's Visually Impaired
1. Viviane Forest, guide: Lindsay Debou (CAN), 1:27.51
2. Henrieta Farkasova, guide: Natalia Subrtova (SVK), 1:28.17 (+0.66)
3. Danelle Umstead (Taos, N.M. / Park City, Utah), guide: Rob Umstead (Taos, N.M. / Park City, Utah), 1:30.18 (+2.67)
Additional USA Athletes:
DNF - Caitlin Sarubbi, guide: Gwynn Watkins, DNF
Downhill: Women's Standing
1. Lauren Woolstencroft (CAN), 1:25.54
2. Solene Jambaque (FRA), 1:29.94 (+4.40)
3. Andrea Rothfuss (GER), 1:30.58, (+5.04)
6. Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:32.32 (+6.78)
DNS: Elitsa Storey (Sun Valley, Idaho)
Downhill: Men's Visually Impaired
1. Jon Santacana Maiztegui, guide: Miguel Galindo Garces (ESP), 1:18.23
2. Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.), guide: Slater Storey (Sun Valley, Idaho), 1:18.63 (+0.40)
3. Gerd Gradwohl, guide: Karl-Heinz Vachenaur (GER), 1:20.40 (+2.17)
Downhill: Men's Standing
1. Gerd Schonfelder (GER), 1:20.80
2. Marty Mayberry (AUS), 1:22.78 (+1.98)
2. Michael Brugger (SUI), 1:22.78 (+1.98)
14. Brad Washburn (Winter Park, Colo.), 1:26.40 (+5.60)
21. George Sansonetis (Fraser, Colo.), 1:28.47 (+7.67)
22. Monte Meier (Park City, Utah), 1:28.48 (+7.68)