Five Questions With The U.S. Alpine Skiing Team

By Brianna Tammaro | Dec. 14, 2016, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. Alpine Skiing Team, pictured above training in Austria last year, will will return to the country to kick off the 2016-17 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup season from December 15-17 in Kuhtai.


The biggest season ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will see Team USA travel across Europe and Asia to race against top international talent in a series of world cups and the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships. The U.S. women come off a strong 2015-16 season that crowned them with the overall Nations Cup and Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah) with the slalom world cup title for the women’s visually impaired class at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado. 

A number of U.S. athletes were within reach of overall globes, including Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado), 21, who in only his second world cup season finished second in the men’s slalom for the standing division. Staci Mannella (Randolph, New Jersey), 20, was a close second in the women’s slalom and giant slalom standing for the visually-impaired class. The two are a pair of the youngest members on the U.S. team and will aim to be on the podium at their first world championships in January.  

Before slalom and giant slalom action gets underway at the opening world cup in Kuhtai, Austria on Thursday, find out how Team USA’s Walsh and Mannella will prepare for PyeongChang in the season ahead: 

How did your offseason go?
 

Thomas Walsh: My offseason was extremely busy. I spent my time dedicated to my college studies and training. It has been a challenge to balance my junior and senior years with my skiing, however thus far I have managed. This summer and fall, I trained at the Olympic Training Centers in Chula Vista and Colorado Springs and in Chile and Austria on the snow. I have been focused on getting as strong as possible and targeting areas where I know I need to get stronger, including my right leg and hip where my disability shows from my Cancer treatments. I have been attending physical therapy multiple times a week, attending Rolfing sessions, working out at a local gym at my home in Vail, Colorado, as well as eating as much food as possible to gain weight!

What are you most excited for on this upcoming season?

Staci Mannella: This season I am really excited for world championships and the test event in South Korea. Those are the really big races we will ski this year and I am excited because I have never skied a world championships or a test event in the past. I'm also really looking forward to having the opportunity to travel with some of my best friends and work on improving everyday as we move into the Paralympic year.

What are your goals for the world cup opener in Kuhtai?

TW: This will be my first world cup opener where I know what to expect when it comes to pressure (from all sides including mentally from myself as well as external influences). Every race and every run that I compete in, I simply ski as fast as possible. There are many great skiers who will be on the slope and we have all been working very hard this summer and off season. It will be interesting just to how we all stack up against each other, however I am positive with the work that I have put in and I hope to have success when it comes race time.

What has the mentality been for you and your U.S. teammates heading into this important year before PyeongChang 2018? 

SM: Personally I am working towards continuing to improve so I am skiing my fastest in PyeongChang. I think most of my teammates have a similar mentality. It is incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to ski in an event like a Paralympics because we get to compete against all of the best athletes in the world on such a huge stage. It is an incredible experience and my teammates and I work every day to ensure we can to perform at our best in PyeongChang 2018.

What are you looking to focus on during these first world cups to prepare for the world championships in Tarvisio?

TW: These first world cup races are important as individual races but I will also use them as training for the big event in Tarvisio. I have been very focused on my technical skiing including slalom and giant slalom and have made progress in my basic skiing position. I am now trying to gain the miles on the snow and practice under race-day settings while continuing this form. More so, I focus on skiing as fast as possible every single run.

Follow Team USA on USParalympics.org and Paralympic.org for live results at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup in Kuhtai, Austria from December 15-17.