There may not have been a lot of racing in 2020, but there was still plenty of news in the world of U.S. Para alpine skiing this past year.
From veteran Laurie Stephens winning her fourth crystal globe and returning for her 17th season to race postponements to team members enjoying the opportunities they did have to ski, here’s a look back at some noteworthy moments from the past year:
Walsh Honors Jeff Shiffrin With Emotional Win
Paralympian Thomas Walsh raced at the world cup stop in Sakhalin, Russia, back in February with a very special message on the front of his ski helmet. It was a quote from Jeff Shiffrin, who died just a week earlier.
“Be nice, think first, have fun — Jeff,” it read.
Walsh wrote it in black marker, taped it to his helmet then went out and won the men’s standing giant slalom for his first world cup victory in five seasons. Walsh and Mikaela Shiffrin were childhood friends and her father remained influential in Walsh’s life and skiing career, and the message was his tribute. He also made a heartfelt post on Instagram immediately after Shiffrin’s passing:
Speaking of Walsh, he also blogged during the early days of COVID-19 quarantine on , sharing his thoughts on isolation, connecting and growth during challenging times.
Remainder Of Season Canceled Due To COVID
The team traveled to Norway in mid-March expecting to race in Lillehammer and then go on to Sweden, but the night of their arrival they learned there would be no skiing the next day. Thirty-six hours after arriving, the team was back on a plane heading home to the United States. That was the end of the 2019-20 season.
Laurie Stephens Wins Crystal Globe
The four-time Paralympian and seven-time medalist won her fourth overall world cup crystal globe and her first since 2006. For Stephens, it was a bit of a strange win because the season was cut short, but she started off strong, winning two gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the first two world cups then added to her total in Sakhalin. Her gold medals in super-G at the opener in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, were the first world cup wins by a U.S. Para alpine team member in over a year.
U.S. Paralympics Says Goodbye To Paul DiBello
The Para alpine world lost one of its most influential figures when Paul DiBello died in April. In addition to competing in two Paralympic Games and winning five gold medals, DiBello also founded the National Sports Center for the Disabled competition program in 1984 and was the director until 2004.
NSCD Turns 50
Speaking of the NSCD, the Colorado-based center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. Not just for training elite athletes for international and Paralympic success, the center also provides more than 20 adaptive sports opportunities to more than 4,000 participants each year.
Ten Athletes Named To 2020-21 National Team
This season’s squad is filled with veteran talent, led by Laurie Stephens, now in her 17th season with the team. In total, eight of the 10 athletes have been to the Paralympics: Stephens, Andrew Haraghey, Connor Hogan, Allison Kunkel, Andrew Kurka, Stephen Lawler, Thomas Walsh and Spencer Wood. The two athletes on the roster hoping to make their Paralympic debuts in 2022 are David Williams and Ravi Drugan.
U.S Team Heads To Austria For Training Camp
In October, the U.S. contingent came together for the first time since March and traveled to Austria to get some time on the snow. Walsh wrote about the experience for USParaAlpineSkiing.org.
“Needless to say, it’s been a weird year for all of us,” he wrote.
And several other members of the team shared the experience on Instagram.
2021 World Championships Postponed
The coming season was supposed to culminate with a historic world championships in February 2021 with Para alpine, cross-country, biathlon and snowboarding being held together for the first time. However, the event was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. The world championships will now take place in Lillehammer in early January 2022.
IPC Announces New Medal Events For 2026
Women will have additional medal opportunities in a number of sports, including alpine skiing, at the 2026 Winter Paralympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The Para alpine events that received provisional approval earlier this month are women’s downhill vision impaired, women’s downhill sitting, women’s super combined vision impaired and women’s super combined sitting.
Kurka added to Team Toyota roster
Andrew Kurka was one of four Winter Olympic & Paralympic athletes named to Team Toyota recently. That roster of athletes, which already included U.S. alpine skiers Alana Nichols and Danelle Umstead, receives funding and other support from the automaker. Kurka is also working with Toyota’s race team to develop a new Paralympic sit ski.