Whistler Paralympic Park – A drop in temperatures made for fast, icy tracks Thursday morning that changed into warmer, wet snow as racing progressed throughout the day. Despite the strong effort on behalf of all six U.S. competitors, it wasn’t quite enough to earn a spot on the podium.
In one of the most exciting races of the day, Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho) was in medal contention throughout much of the men’s sitting 10K. In the final laps, the top ten skiers were all within about nine seconds of each other in the extremely competitive field of 34 athletes. With Norway’s Trygve Toskedal breathing down his neck, Halsted held his ground and charged the finish line, but fell short of making the top three. The 39-year old father of three and U.S. Air force veteran clocked a 28:35.8 for seventh place overall.
“Sean was awesome,” said U.S. Adaptive Ski Coach Greg Rawlings. “He got passed early on by the second-place person, held on, and then dropped him in the end. He really stepped up his game.”
“I didn’t know my position at all in the end,” said Halsted. “I knew that I was trying hard and giving it my all. I knew if Trygve [Toskedal] was right there, or two spaces behind me, I was in the running because I know he’s fast. Putting down that effort was good for me and I think and it made the race feel all that much better.”
On another part of the course, Andy Soule (Pearland, Texas) was busy trying hold off Russian powerhouse Irek Zaripov, who entered today’s race with three gold medals won in events earlier this week.
“I had a little bit of a hiccup on the back end of the course on the first lap,” said Soule, who won bronze in the 2.4 K biathlon pursuit on Saturday. “I had a fall on the downhill, but I didn’t waste more than a couple of seconds there. Irek [Zaripov] got by me near the far end of the course on the major downhill coming back towards the stadium.”
Zaripov went on to win the gold – his fourth of the Vancouver Games – with a time of 27:12.1. Soule crossed the finish line in a 29:18.7 for 12th place. Chris Klebl (Heber City, Utah) posted a time of 29:39.7 for 16th place, with Greg Mallory (Portland, Ore.) with a 30:35.3 for 24th place overall.
On the women’s side, Kelly Underkofler (St. Paul, Minn.) finished 10th in the women’s standing 5K classic event. In a field of 16 competitors, Underkofler clocked a time of 18:37.2. Ukraine took the gold and silver medal spots on the podium. Oleksandra Kononova won in a 16:01.3, with teammate Iuliia Batenkova close behind in a 16:03.7.
“The first half of the course is a lot of uphills,” said Underkofler. “I felt like that was where my strength was today. It was a fast race – one lap around is like a walk in the park compared to the other day’s five laps.”
In the women’s sitting 5K event, Monica Bascio (Evergreen, Colo.) took on 15 skiers, finishing 10th overall with a time of 16:32.4. Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus dominated the field, posting a time of 14:56.6 for the gold medal.
All six members of Team USA will take to the course Sunday for the final day of cross country competition. The 1K sprint races will be conducted in a qualification, semifinal and final race format. Races are broadcast live online at www.paralympicsport.tv. For a complete schedule and results, visit www.vancouver2010.com.
Contact: Allison Frederick, U.S. Paralympic Press Officer, email@example.com, Mobile: 778-938-8721.
Results: Men’s Sitting 5K
1. RUS: ZARIPOV, Irek (27:12.1)
2. ITA: MASIELLO, Enzo (28:21.1)
3. BLR: LOBAN, Dzmitry (28:25.1)
7. USA: HALSTED, Sean (28:35.8)
12. USA: SOULE, Andy (29:18.7)
16. USA: KLEBL, Chris (29:39.7)
24. USA: MALLORY, Greg (30:35.3)
Results: Women’s Standing 5K Classic
1. UKR: KONONOVA, Oleksandra (16:01.3)
2. UKR: BATENKOVA, Iuliia (16:03.7)
3. BLR: VARONA, Larysa (17:38.2)
10. USA: UNDERKOFLER, Kelly (18:37.2)
Results: Women’s Sitting 5K
1. BLR: VAUCHOK, Liudmila (14:56.6)
2. GER: ESKAU, Andrea (15:11.4)
3. CAN: BOURGONJE, Colette (15:16.4)
10. USA: BASCIO, Monica (16:32.4)
Flash Quotes: Thursday, March 18, 2010
Greg Rawlings, U.S. Paralympic Cross Country/Biathlon Head Coach
On Team USA’s performance today:
The team was good today. It was changing conditions and it was tricky, but we changed with them. We had some good skis, and the guys were able to utilize them. Sean was awesome. He got passed early on by the second-place person, held on, and then dropped him in the end. He really stepped up his game. Andy was strong. He got passed by Irek [Zaripov] early on, and held onto him for more than half a lap. He learned what ski racing is about at that level and skied well. It was a good, solid effort by a lot of people.
On the competitive field of athletes:
It was amazing. And then the last lap, we had people coming out of the woodwork. I had Sean for most of it, within nine seconds out of second place, in eighth position. That’s what it came down to. It was who in there wanted it. All the coaches out there were yelling the same things to the same guys – you’re nine seconds out of it, you’re nine seconds out of it – in whatever language it was. Some people were able to do it, and some were at the nine seconds, or whatever else.
On how he communicates with the athletes on the course:
Sometimes you give them fingers and most of the time you’re yelling. For every fifth word, they hear half a word. You give them very little information and just yell real loud.
Outlook for the final day of competition Sunday:
I think Sean could be in the money on the sprint. He’s got the fitness for the multiple rounds, and he’s got the speed. It will be exciting.
Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho)
On his race performance:
Putting down that effort was a pretty good effort for me, I think and it made it feel all that much better.
On the steep downhills and his mental strategy:
I think about Greg Mallory. He just bombs down the hills. I think, well shoot, if he’s doing it that way, then I think I should try to do something similar, so I try to mimic him. The funny thing is, his little voice is in my head all the time, pushing me forward to go a little hard. Push a little hard, push a little faster.
On Norway’s Trygve Toskedal closely chasing him the last few laps of the course:
I definitely knew he was there, because the coaches were yelling and although I don’t know the Norwegian language, but I can recognize it. I knew that that’s what the coaches were saying. Then every once in a while, too, you come around a corner and you can see your opponent coming. For a couple times, we swapped places, so I knew it was him and me. I was hoping that he was setting a pretty good pace, so that I could follow him. But I ended up keeping in front of him.
On how the coaches communicate with him on the race course:
I didn’t know my position at all in the end. I knew that I was trying hard and giving it my all. I knew if Trygve was right there or two spaces behind me, I was in the running because I know he’s fast. I know if I’m in the running with him, then I got to have a pretty good time. I was surprised that it was fourth. The coaches are always giving you the time around the course, so they give you a good idea. My history is such that the coaches’ info doesn’t always relate to my results. They’re out there; they’re crunching a bunch of numbers. Anything can happen from where they are until I’m at the finish line.
Andy Soule (Pearland, Texas)
On his race performance:
I had a little bit of a hiccup on the back end of the course on the first lap. I had a fall on the downhill, but I didn’t waste more than a couple of seconds there. Irek got by me near the far end of the course on the major downhill coming back towards the stadium. I managed to keep in his draft for a good half of a lap. I think that gave me some time. I lost him in the stadium. I got a little bit sideways and lost his tracks and wasn’t quite able to get back on him. I kept him in sight for a while and I think I put down a good race.
On the steep downhill sections of the course:
It was a little bit of a tricky downhill. Where the tracks started was a really awkward position, but it was like that for everybody. I ski down hills and turns fairly well. I think that the strategy was to get over the hill quickly and then get into turning mode, getting on the edge of my inside ski.
On the changing conditions over the course of the race:
It definitely felt like it got warmer and wetter. It slowed down a little bit the last laps.
Kelly Underkofler (St. Paul, Minn.)
On the conditions:
The tracks were cold and icy, which made the downhill sections very fast. The first half of the course is a lot of uphills. I felt like that was where my strength was today. It was a fast race – one lap around is like a walk in the park compared to the other day’s five laps.