Team USA wins silver, two bronze medals in alpine skiing

By Katie Branham | March 08, 2014, 6 a.m. (ET)
Alana Nichols
Alana Nichols finished second in her first event of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the downhill.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Alana Nichols won silver, and Laurie Stephens and Allison Jones won bronze in the women’s downhill competition on the first day of alpine skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.

Nichols (Farmington, N.M.) and Stephens (Wenham, Mass.) landed on the podium in a very competitive women's sitting race. Nichols crossed the line .14 seconds back from Anna Schaffelhuber of Germany who claimed gold. Stephens was close behind in 1:36.94 to claim bronze. Nichols now owns six Paralympic medals, with four from the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, and gold in wheelchair basketball in 2008. Stephens is a five-time medalist in alpine skiing, and she has extended her streak of winning a downhill medal at each Paralympic Winter Games since 2006.

Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won her eighth Paralympic medal and her first downhill medal, as she took bronze in the women's standing class. This is the second time Jones has claimed the first American medal of the Games, as she won the first Team USA medal of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in cycling. Jones crossed the finish line in 1:34.88, to secure her podium position by less than eight-tenths of a second.

Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah) and guide Rob Umstead finished fifth in the women's visually impaired race, with less than a second separating her from the podium.

Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Cade Yamamoto (Quincy, Wash.) had a similar result in the men’s visually impaired race, as they came back from a hard crash during Thursday’s training run to ski a clean run to finish fifth, with less than eight-tenths of a second separating them from the bronze.

It was a challenging day in the men’s sitting class, as multiple competitors were unable to complete the course. Team USA’s Chris Devlin-Young (Bethlehem, N.H.) skied a clean run to finish tenth. Jasmin Bambur (Granby, Colo.) missed a gate mid-course, while Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.) was transported off the mountain by helicopter after crashing on the course. He is stable as of 3 p.m. local time.

Alana Nichols

“Well I was really excited this morning to wake up and see the sun come out. Inspecting the track, it was in great shape, it couldn’t have been a better set up. I felt confident going into this run considering my last two training runs. I knew it was going to be a tight race with Anna Schaffelhuber, as it always is, so I was really giving it. I think though I wasn’t running the exact line I wanted to be on, slid out and made a huge mistake. I’m really really lucky that my ski hooked up and I was able to pop out of it. After that I was pretty disappointed, but I came into the finish with a surprising time equivalent to my first downhill training run with no mistakes. I really feel like I could have skied better. Not terribly happy with the performance today, but considering I hung in there and was able to finish in second, I consider it a win.” 

Laurie Stephens

“It’s pretty exciting to have it be so close like that. I was pretty nervous going into it and just tried to ski the best that I could you know that you can I always improve but I’m pretty happy with that. The competition is pretty exciting like I said I was pretty nervous at the start but I just tried to ski the best I could and I got a bronze, that’s pretty awesome.”

Allison Jones

“They are taking really good care of the snow and the course, they are really holding a top notch event in tough conditions.The course workers are out there and every night the course seems to be getting a good freeze which allows me to race; knowing how things are going it’s a huge stress reliever. Really it’s amazing to be here, amazing to be a part of it.”

Danelle Umstead

“I think we had some pretty fantastic moments and then we had some moments we wished had been faster, but all in all I think we had a great run. “

Mark Bathum

“Well we were hoping for more success quite frankly. We won the last three downhills, we thought we’d get on the podium for sure. The run felt pretty good to us, so we are still trying to figure out where we gave up so much time to not get onto the podium. It’s a fantastic course. I mean it runs down where the men’s Olympic downhill ran so it’s the toughest course we’ve been on probably since the last Paralympics and so it was a great track, really challenging hill lots of bounces and terrain in it and it was a good challenge for us.”