SOCHI, Russia — The downhill event will kick off the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals in Sochi, Russia on Friday, just a day after the one-year-to-go mark until the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The event concludes March 12.
More than 70 athletes will compete in the test event for the Games, as the training run will begin at 9:30 a.m. (local time), with the medal event set for 12:30 p.m.
The U.S. roster for the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Final: Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Slater Storey (Sun Valley, Idaho); Heath Calhoun (Clarksville, Tenn.), ret., Army; Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.); Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska); Alana Nichols (Farmington, N.M.); Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.); Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah); Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah) and guide Rob Umstead (Park City, Utah); Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.); and Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.), ret., Coast Guard.
In the women's visually impaired class, world champion Henrieta Farkasova of Slovakia will not compete, due to an injury she sustained at the World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Her absence makes Russia's Alexandra Frantseva the favorite for the race. Great Britain's Kelly Gallagher, guided by Charlotte Evans, will also be a top contender.
"I'm ready for (Friday's) race," Evans said. "It's a steep slope. You can't just camber down. It's got to be full attack."
In the women's standing class, world champion Marie Bochet of France will hope to stand atop the podium once again, with her fiercest competition coming from her teammate Solene Jambaque or Germany's Andrea Rothfuss.
In the women's sitting class, world champion Stephens will have to beat Austria's Claudia Loesch, who has been on top form this season. Nichols, who did not race at the World Championships due to injury, is also one to watch out for.
"It will be a test event for us and we will see how it will be for us," she said. "I think it's important just to have fun.
"I think it's a really difficult slope, the first part is quite flat, then there are three difficult pitches and a steep part. It will be a challenge tomorrow."
Spain's world and Paralympic champion Jon Santacana is a firm favourite in the men's visually impaired event. His closest rivals will likely be Canada's Chris Williamson and Russia's Ivan Frantsev.
World champion Markus Salcher of Austria will hope to be the fastest again in the men's standing class, with his toughest rivals teammate Matthias Lanzinger and Switzerland's Michael Bruegger not far behind.
World champion Franz Hanfstingl of Germany will aim to hold onto his nickname, "the unbeatable," and claim the gold once again. But as the World Championships in La Molina showed, anything can happen in the men's sitting class.
"The downhill is a special race because it's more mentally demanding than other disciplines, but I like," said Germany's Georg Kreiter.
"It's my first time in Russia. I didn't think it would be as it is. I thought there would be nothing, but they're working everywhere, so I think it'll be great. I'm looking forward to coming back next year."
For more information, please visit the IPC Alpine Skiing homepage at www.ipc-alpineskiing.org.