Americans Laurie Stephens and Stephen Lawler medaled on Day 1 of the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Championships, in La Molina, Spain, with Her Royal Highness Princess Elena of Spain and IPC President Sir Philip Craven watching.
The gold medal for the women's downhill sitting event, one of six competitions on opening day, went to Stephens (Wenham, Mass.) for her time of 1:41.07, marking the first world championship for Team USA in Spain. The Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games downhill champion topped Canada's Kimberley Joines (1:41.37), the silver medalist, and Germany's Anna Schaffelhuber (1:44.17).
The final event of the day was a thriller with the medal positions changing throughout the men's sitting competition. Stephen Lawler (Burlington, Vt.) looked on course to take Team USA's second gold of the day (1:32.58) until Germany's Franz Hanfstingl, one of the final competitors, came out of nowhere to take gold in a time of 1:31.92.
Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.), a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, finished in fifth place with a time of 1:33.99.
The men's standing competition was won by Austria's Markus Salcher. His time of 1:29.74 placed him ahead of Switzerland's Michael Bruegger who took silver in 1:32.51. Bronze was won by Austria's Matthias Lanzinger (1:33.80).
Spain's Yon Santacana and his guide Miguel Galindo Garces stormed to gold in the men's downhill for visually impaired athletes. Santacana, the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games champion in the discipline, led home a strong field to win Spain's first gold of the Championships in 1:25.14.
Despite only one medal, the men's downhill events proved to be a strength for Team USA, with the U.S. men claiming three Top 10 spots: Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.) and his guide Sean Ramsden finished the visually impaired race in 1:29.94, taking ninth; Ralph Green (Brooklyn, N.Y.) finished the standing race in 1:34.34, taking ninth; and Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.) finished the sitting race in 1:14.91, taking 10th.
Heath Calhoun (Bristol, Tenn.), a U.S. Army veteran, placed 13th in the sitting race with a time of 1:17.01.
On the women's side, the dynamic pair of Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah) and guide Rob Umstead, her husband, took fourth place in the visually impaired run in 1:41.12 behind Slovakia's Henrieta Farkisova and Natalia Subrtova, who claimed the gold medal. Great Britain's Kelly Gallagher (guide Charlotte Evans) claimed bronze in 1:38.86.
In the women's standing event, France's took gold and bronze through Marie Bochet and Solene Jambaque respectively. Bochet, a silver medalist in this discipline at the 2011 World Championships in Sestriere, Italy, took gold in 1:35.62 whilst Jambaque took bronze for the second successive World Championships in 1:38.52. Germany's 23 year old defending champion Andrea Rothfuss managed silver in 1:37.23.
Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished with a Top 10 spot, taking eight place with a time of 1:46.71.
Nearly 120 skiers from 28 countries are competing in the event which is the last major international championships ahead of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain will run through Feb. 27 with Thursday featuring Super-G events.
Visit www.ipcalpineskiingworlds.org for the latest results.