National team member Jasmin Bambur competes at the Paralympic Games PyeongChang 2018.
The last time there was a world championships for Para alpine skiing was in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic wasn’t in the public consciousness, and world championships in other Para snow sports were held separately around the world.
After being postponed due to COVID-19 concerns last year, a unified World Para Snow Sports Championships has finally arrived this month in Lillehammer, Norway. While the atmosphere may be different, the objective for each athlete remains the same: to see his or her name on the final roster representing Team USA at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
At the last world championships in 2019, U.S. Para alpine skiers took home three medals. Following several training camps in Switzerland, Oregon and Colorado this past summer and fall, the team traveled to Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia as part of the North American Series in November. They kicked off the world cup season in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in mid-December, collecting a total of three medals.
U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing plans to field a team of 17 in Lillehammer, spanning seasoned national team members all the way down to athletes looking to make a mark in one of their first major international competitions.
Here are six alpine skiers to watch as the world championships get underway.
Jasmin Bambur (Granby, Colorado)
At 42, Bambur is looking to qualify for his fourth Paralympic Games. Born in Zrenjanin, Serbia, Bambur became the first Serbian to compete in the Winter Games in 2010, finishing ninth in downhill, 20th in super-G and 25th in slalom.
After becoming a U.S. citizen in 2010 and making his first U.S. national team in 2012, Bambur finished seventh in super-G and 17th in giant slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games, and 12th in the super combined event at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
In October, Bambur had surgery to remove cartilage from his elbow. But he recovered in time for the North American Series event in Panorama, where he took gold in slalom. He finished seventh in slalom in the men’s sitting class at St. Moritz.
Bambur has won numerous national and world cup championships, but has yet to medal at the Paralympic Games. It’s the main reason he’s coming back for his fourth Games.
“I know I can do it, I just have to put my mind to it,” he said.
Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon)
An X Games bronze medalist who began competing in Para alpine skiing in 2008, Drugan is currently one of the top 10 men’s slalom sit skiers in the world.
Drugan finished third in the men’s giant slalom sitting class at Panorama, and earned three top 10 finishes in giant slalom over the four-day world cup event in St. Moritz.
Jesse Keefe (Sun Valley, Idaho)
Currently the youngest member of the national team at 17, Keefe is looking to qualify for his first Paralympic Games. But it didn’t take long for him to make an impact following his debut last season. Keefe took gold in slalom at the Park NorAm Open in Colorado last January, as well as silver in giant slalom and bronze in super-G. He duplicated that performance at the Huntsman Cup in Park City, Utah, later that month and won gold in slalom and giant slalom along with bronze in super-G at the national championships in Winter Park last March.
This season, Keefe finished third in slalom at Panorama and placed fourth in giant slalom in the men’s sitting class. He isn’t intimidated by the prospect of qualifying for Beijing.
“It’s like any other race,” Keefe said. “That’s how I see it.”
Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska)
Looking to make the final roster for his third Paralympic Games, Kurka has two Paralympic medals and four world championships medals in 12 seasons on the U.S. team. After missing the Sochi Games due to a back injury, Kurka rebounded at the PyeongChang 2018 Games to capture gold in the downhill and a silver in super-G.
Heading into the world championships, Kurka is coming off a first-place finish in Panorama in the men’s giant slalom sitting class and fifth in giant slalom at St. Moritz.
Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts)
A four-time Paralympian and seven-time Paralympic medalist in the women’s sitting class, Stephens would have the most experience on the current U.S. roster if she qualifies for Beijing. She’s no stranger to the world championships either, having collected 13 medals in six appearances that include two silvers and a bronze at the 2019 championships.
Stephens picked up her fourth world cup crystal globe in 2020, a major accomplishment during an otherwise tumultuous season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I always felt, and still do, that if I can ski the way I want to be skiing then that kind of stuff will kind of fall into place,” she told Team USA in 2020.
Stephens is off to a flying start this season, taking silver in slalom and finishing third, fourth and fifth in the giant slalom events in St. Moritz.
Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado)
Walsh is hoping to earn a spot on his second Paralympic roster for Beijing. In PyeongChang, he finished as high as fifth in slalom in the men’s sitting class. At the most recent world championships in 2019, he earned bronze in both giant slalom and super combined.
Walsh, a cancer survivor, battled injuries before the start of this season. But he recovered in time to capture gold at Panorama in slalom and bronze in slalom at St. Moritz.
Here is the full roster of athletes competing this week and next:
Martin (Kyle) Moxley