Andrew Kurka poses for photo on the podium for the men's downhill.
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – Paralympic champion Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) grabbed Team USA’s first podium appearance in Para alpine skiing at the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships, finishing third in the men’s downhill sitting competition. Kurka clocked a time of 1:15.80, just under three seconds behind Norway’s gold medalist Jesper Pedersen and silver medalist Jereon Kampschreur of the Netherlands.
The reigning Paralympic champion in the event, bronze marks Kurka’s first world championship podium appearance since the Tarvisio 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships, where he secured four medals including gold in the same race. Kurka was poised to out speed Pedersen until an unexpected late bump threw him off plan momentarily costing him the world’s fastest time. The Alaskan native will return to competition in Saturday’s super-G races.
“I’m happy I got a bronze, I was just inches away from gold and it shows,” said Kurka.”My competitors are well aware of that and are going to be looking for me coming into Beijing.”
“The course crew did a really great job over the last three days making [the course] better. Even though we had the cancellation yesterday because of weather, it ended up being a blessing in disguise because it made the track smooth and really fast. I was just inches away from gold until I had that one mess up in the lower pitch. After not skiing downhill in two years, I feel like it’s a great place to start…I was using this as a learning and growing experience, it wasn’t really about knowing if I can win here, but knowing that I can win in Beijing.”
Postponed from a Thursday, Jan. 13 start due to high wind and unsafe snow conditions, Team USA had a large contingent of athletes racing on the first day of competition in Lillehammer with 10 athletes in contention for podium spots. In the men’s downhill sitting, Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon) secured an eighth-best finish in his world championship debut while fellow newbie David Williams (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) did not start. The course proved a difficult one for many as an array of racers across all classes were unable to finish including four-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts), who had a slip near the end in the women’s downhill sitting competition.
The U.S. fielded six competitors in the competitive men’s downhill standing discipline with Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado) grabbing the 11th-best spot in the world followed by Spencer Wood with a 14th place finish and Andrew Haraghey with a 15th place spot. Seventeen-year-old Jesse Keefe (Sun Valley, Idaho) grabbed the 22nd spot, Connor Hogan (Foxborough, Massachusetts) the 23rd place finish and two-time Paralympian Tyler Carter (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished 25th.
The Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships is a historical first multi-sport world championship event in Para sport featuring Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboarding hosted concurrently. The event, which runs through Jan. 23, was due to take place in Jan. 2021 however was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to being the largest Para sport event in Norway since the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games with nearly 850 athletes from 42 countries, the event will offer medalists prize money for the first-time in history.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Annemarie Blanco at Annemarie.Blanco@usopc.org.