U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team regains spot as top nation

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Dec. 20, 2012, 12 p.m. (ET)
Laurie Stephens
Laurie Stephens, a member of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, helped the 2010-11 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team to a Nations Cup win. Team USA finished 506 points ahead of Russia.

Highlighted by the London 2012 Paralympic Games, called the greatest Games ever by International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven, 2012 was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement in the United States and around the globe. Records were broken and legacies were made. From Dec. 20-31, USParalympics.org will unveil the Top 12 moments of 2012 for U.S. Paralympics in chronological order.

Just one year after the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team won 11 medals at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the third-most alpine medals at the Games, Team USA dropped to sixth in the 2011 Nations Cup standings. The alpine skiing slump did not last long as American skiers regained top billing in the 2011-12 season.

At the International Paralympic Committee Alpine World Cup Finals in March in Panorama, British Columbia, Alana Nichols took three golds and one silver at the competition, which helped Team USA wrap up its first Nations Cup title since 2010. The United States earned 4,657 points while Russia came in second with 4,151 and France in third with 4,087.

“We were focusing on podiums this year, and trying to get as many first, second or third-place finishes as we could,” said Kevin Jardine, High Performance Director and head coach, U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing.

Overall, the United States won eight globes in the World Cup season: Nichols (women’s sitting), first in speed, third in giant slalom and third in slalom; Laurie Stephens (women’s sitting), first in giant slalom and second in speed; Tyler Walker (men’s sitting) second in speed; and Danelle Umstead (women’s visually impaired), third in both speed and slalom.

“Everybody played a part,” Walker said. “It was kind of like icing on the cake for the whole season.”

Team USA made the World Cup podium 39 times last season. Nichols led the Americans with 10 World Cup medals while Stephens and Umstead won nine medals each. Walker finished the season with four World Cup medals.