Danielle Umstead competes in Para alpine skiing. Umstead was one of the athletes competing at U.S. para alpine national championships this week. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s time to meet the 2021 U.S. Para alpine national champions.
This year’s national championships, held March 27-31 in Winter Park, Colo., took on a little greater importance than in years past, primarily because there were so few opportunities to compete this season. Some national team members, including Connor Hogan and Ravi Drugan, offered their thoughts about that.
It was also a last chance for skiers to test themselves and show what they’ve got before launching into the upcoming Paralympic year. Here’s a look at some of the winners and notable performances in slalom, giant slalom and super-G:
Cassie Grenier, with guide Darby Hartmann, swept the women’s visually impaired events, winning titles in the giant slalom, slalom and super-G. Grenier, who competes in the B3 class, held off three-time Paralympian Danelle Umstead, classified B2, in both the slalom and giant slalom events.
Laurie Stephens also swept the women’s races in the sitting classification. The four-time Paralympian will be seeking her fifth trip to the Games next year.
Audrey Crowley took the title in giant slalom and slalom in the women’s standing category. Allie Johnson won the super-G in women’s standing.
In the men’s visually impaired category, Larry Martin won the giant slalom with guide Brad Washburn, while Mikhail Simanov, with guide Richard Bolog, won the super-G and the slalom.
Up-and-comer Jesse Keefe, a 17-year-old LW4 skier, had perhaps the best showing of all the men. He is the new national title holder in the men’s standing classification in slalom and giant slalom and also finished third in super-G.
Hogan, a 2018 Paralympian, earned a national title in the super-G and was second in both slalom and giant slalom in the men’s standing classification.
Three-time Paralympian Jasmin Bambur, who retired from racing following PyeongChang in 2018 but started training again this season with the hopes of making the 2022 Paralympic team, won the men’s slalom title in the sitting classification. The LW11 skier also took second in giant slalom to help make his case.
It was a tense competition in the men's sitting category between two-time Paralympic medalist Andrew Kurka and national team athlete David Williams. Kurka won the men’s giant slalom and was second in super-G in men’s sitting while Williams grabbed gold in the super-G and silver in the men's giant slalom.
Hogan was excited for his national title in super-G. “These are the days you work so hard for. Time to keep working to build on this season,” he posted on Instagram alongside a photo of the medal ceremony.
Kurka also shared a photo of his gold medal and fellow competitors following the giant slalom.
Bambur, on the comeback trail, also shared a few photos from his week.
Getting More People On The Slopes
More than two dozen people with disabilities got to experience alpine skiing this winter thanks to the Santa Clarita, California-based Triumph Foundation and the United States Adaptive Recreation Center. According to the nonprofit’s website, the mission of the Triumph Foundation is to “help children, adults and veterans with spinal cord injury/disorder to triumph over their disability and to inspire them to keep moving forward with their lives by pushing themselves to get better everyday.” They brought 25 individuals with mobility issues to Big Bear Mountain Resort, including a dozen first-time skiers and three kids under the age of nine.
Vermont Adaptive New Facility Is A Go
The pandemic forced Vermont Adaptive to hold off on building its new facility at Sugarbush’s Mt. Ellen, but the organization announced it will now break ground this spring. The group is still looking to raise the last $500,000 it needs for the $2 million facility, which will allow them to move from their current 400-square-foot digs into a 4,000-square-foot space.