Andrew Kurka wins men’s sitting downhill gold to open competition in PyeongChang
Laurie Stephens finishes third in women’s sitting downhill
Team USA records two-medal day and five top-10 finishes
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – After a heartbreaking crash in a training run in Sochi in 2014, Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) returned victoriously to win gold in the men’s sitting downhill on the first day of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team garnered two medals as Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) also brought home bronze.
The eighth skier to compete, Kurka stormed to a dominant lead and held off a competitive field of more than 25 athletes for his first Paralympic medal. Kurka’s time of 1:24.11 bested runner-up and four-time Paralympic medalist Taiki Morii of Japan by more than a second and a half. This was his largest margin of victory ever in a downhill race.
Stephens claimed bronze in the women’s sitting downhill in a repeat of her result from Sochi. Stephens cemented her status as the most decorated member of the U.S. Paralympic Team as she now owns seven Paralympic medals (two gold, two silver and three bronze).
1st: Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Ala./men’s sitting)
3rd: Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass./women’s sitting)
7th: Melanie Schwartz (Aspen, Colo./women’s standing); Kevin Burton (Erie, Colo./Navy/visually impaired) and Brandon Powell-Ashby (Boulder, Colo./Marines/ guide)
8th: Stephanie Jallen (Harding, Pa./women’s standing)
18th: Andrew Haraghey (Enfield, Conn./men’s standing); Stephen Lawler (Burlington, Vt./men’s sitting)
Andrew Kurka - gold
“To be a champion in the Paralympic Games is the greatest honor I could ask for.”
“The fact that I came out here and I put down the very first Paralympic medal for Alaska, my home state, and the fact that it’s gold, to me is a fantastic feeling.”
On his success after Sochi…
“This right here is redemption. I wouldn’t change Sochi. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened throughout my life. It’s all a journey and this is my journey to gold.”
Laurie Stephens - bronze
“I'm pretty excited. I was really nervous this morning, and I'm just so happy that I was able to win a bronze. This track was fast and the snow was firm. We had a couple of rough days in the training runs, so it is great that the weather was so awesome.
On her motivation...
”I just remember how much I love skiing. I do this because I love the sport of skiing and I love going out and making turns and going fast, and I just have to remind myself that I’m here because I love to ski.”
Competition resumes tomorrow with the super-G competition. Skiing starts at 9:30 a.m. KST (Sunday, March 11)/7:30 p.m. EST (Saturday, March 10).
NBC Olympics is providing 250 hours of coverage from PyeongChang, including 94 hours on television, which is NBC Olympics’ most ever for a Paralympic Winter Games. View the complete TV and streaming schedule here.