Thomas Walsh competes in the slalom portion of the super-combined event in Lillehammer. (Photo: Alex Livesey)
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – 2018 Paralympian Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado) earned his best result of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships in Monday’s super-combined event, leading Team USA with a fourth-place finish in the men’s standing category.
Walsh’s combined time of 1:55.23 put him just over a second outside of the podium. He clocked a strong super-G run and sat just .16 seconds behind eventual bronze medalist Federico Pelizzari of Italy heading into slalom, but his 45.58-second slalom run was fifth-best of the field and kept him just shy of bronze medal position.
Despite coming back from an injury this year, Walsh, who won bronze in the event at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships, proved today that he still ranks among the best in the world in super-combined.
“I’m pretty happy with this,” Walsh said. “It was going to be either hit or miss for me, coming an injury from last season, I’m quite happy that I’m still up there and know that I have the potential to push when it comes to the [Paralympic] Games in March. I know I can ski with these I just didn’t turn on the slalom today.”
Walsh is next set to compete in giant slalom on Wednesday, an event in which he won the world championship bronze in 2019.
On his 24th birthday, national team member and 2018 Paralympian Spencer Wood (Pittsfield, Vermont) recorded a 17th-place finish in the men’s standing competition. Wood was in 20th position after the super-G portion of the discipline but clocked a 49.58-second slalom run to jump into 17th. Wood finished with a combined time of 1:12.59.
Seventeen-year-old Jesse Keefe (Sun Valley, Idaho), the youngest athlete in any class in today’s international field, finished 23rd in his world championships super-combined debut with a time of 1:17.90. Teammate and two-time Paralympian Tyler Carter (Colorado Springs, Colorado) finished the super-G in 29th but elected not to start the slalom portion of the event.
Two-time Paralympic medalist Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) was leading the field by .07 seconds after the men’s sitting super- chose to opt out of the slalom portion of the competition.
Kurka said that his goal for today was to put together a stellar super-G run, and he accomplished it. His time of 1:10.05 edged Jesper Pederson of Norway, the eventual silver medalist. A five-time world championship medalist, Kurka has already earned a bronze medal in downhill in Lillehammer and is slated to return for the giant slalom on Wednesday.
Under icy conditions that contributed to more than half of her women’s sitting peers slipping off the course in the super-G alone, four-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) did not finish, sliding out in the super-G portion. A seven-time Paralympic medalist and one of the most decorated Para alpine skiers in the world, Stephens has had a thus far, but will look to make a statement in the giant slalom and slalom events later in the week.
The men’s sitting class saw much of the same, as four athletes, including Paralympic hopeful Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon) did not complete the super-G. On a course that has been especially difficult for sit-skiers, Drugan recorded a DNF in Saturday’s super-G race as had a strong world championship debut in the downhill competition, securing an eighth-place finish.
Paralympic hopeful Allie Johnson (Chicago, Illinois), who recorded a 10th-place finish in Saturday’s super-G competition, did not finish the super-G run of today’s race. Coming into Lillehammer, Johnson was ranked 19th in the world in super-G, her best event. Johnson is slated to be Team USA’s sole women’s standing representation in the remaining disciplines.
Andrew (, Connecticut) missed the slalom portion of the race after crashing in the men’s standing class. , a 2018 Paralympian, finished 24th in Saturday’s super-G as he charts a course for his second Paralympic team nomination. Fellow men’s standing athlete Connor Hogan (Foxborough, Massachusetts) was also unable to complete the treacherous super-G course and did not advance to the slalom event. Hogan, who also competed at the Paralympic Games PyeongChang 2018, finished just behind in 27th in Saturday’s super-G.
The U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing athletes have tomorrow off before competition resumes with the men’s giant slalom on Jan. 19 and women’s giant slalom on Jan. 20. All events will be streamed live on the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing Facebook Page. Follow U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Lillehammer.
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