Andrew Kurka competes in the men's giant slalom sitting in Lillehammer on Jan. 19.
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – Paralympic champion Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) continued to be the dominating force of Team USA, picking up his second medal of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships after snagging bronze in the men’s giant slalom sitting class. In his first run, Kurka hit a horrendous bump that nearly knocked him off course completely but was able to find his balance to finish the run heading into the second half of competition inseventh. The Alaska native came back fast and furious in his next showing solidifying his spot on the podium after a surprise mistake in the final moments by Dutch rival Jeroen Kampschreur who was on track to grab his second championship title in Lillehammer but was knocked out of contention after a missing a gate. Kurka finished in a time of 2:21.25 behind Norway’s Jesper Pederson and Poland’s Igor Sikorski who took gold and silver respectively. Kurka also took home the first medal for Team USA of the championships after a third-place finish in the men’s sitting downhill race on the first day of Para alpine competition.
“The first run I just got super unlucky,” said Kurka. “There was a hole that you weren’t able to see because of low light and I stuck my tip right in it, it sent me right through a panel and I lost five seconds in that one spot. It nearly stopped me.
“I knew I had to come out and put on a heavy second run…My focus is Beijing, and this is all a big learning experience, I’m adapting and getting ready to overcome.”
Rounding out the men’s sitting class was three-time Paralympian Jasmin Bambur (Granby, Colorado), who grabbed a 13th-place finish, and Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon) just behind him taking the 14th place spot. Americans Robert Enigl and Kyle Taulman did not finish while David Williams (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) did not start after sustaining a concussion earlier in the championships.
The men’s standing class saw another action-packed day of close finishes as Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado) finished within the world’s top 10 by grabbing sixth place with a combined time of 2:18.82. The team’s youngest Jesse Keefe (Sun Valley, Idaho) finished in the 26th spot with Spencer Wood (Pittsfield, Vermont) just behind him in the world’s 28th best time. It was a 31st place finish for Connor Hogan (Foxborough, Massachusetts) and a 33rd place ranking for Patrick Halgren. For Hogan, he’s focused on using his world championship experience as a chance to build his skillset heading into the rest of the season.
“I think I just need to be more confident in my skiing and building on everything that I’m doing in training and that I know I can do,” said Hogan. “I’m hoping to keep building into the next world cups and hopefully Beijing.”
Para alpine skiing resumes on Jan. 20 with the women’s giant slalom races where Team USA’s Laurie Stephens and Allie Johnson will look to grab their first podium finishes of the world championships. 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.
For media inquiries and photo requests, please contact Annemarie Blanco at Annemarie.firstname.lastname@example.org.