U.S. Paralympics Alp... News Kurka Takes Fourth i...

Kurka Takes Fourth in Downhill on Opening Day, Injury Ends 2022 Games Run

By Jen Allred | March 05, 2022, 5:30 a.m. (ET)

YANQING, CHINA - The alpine competition at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 kicked off with eight Americans on course for the downhill. While Team USA’s best performance of the day came from Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska), who was looking to defend his men’s sitting downhill gold from the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, sadly it would prove to be his last run of the Beijing 2022. Kurka was blown into the fencing on the training course just an hour before race time. A post-race X-ray would reveal a broken humerus and thumb. Despite the injuries, Kurka finished just off the podium in fourth with a time of 1.18.37.  

 

“I was unable to move my body in the race (due to the injury) the way I wanted to,” Kurka shared on Instagram after the race. “My time didn’t reflect the skill and work that I have put into these Games. So it is with a heavy heart, that I will be going home.”  

 

First-time Paralympian Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon) had a DNF in the sitting downhill.  

 

The men’s standing downhill also marked the debut of Jesse Keefe (Bellevue, Idaho) who finished in 22nd with a time of 1.22.48. Keefe, the youngest athlete on the U.S. roster at 17, worked to prepare for this race following the advice of mentors on the team.  

 

“Today was one of the biggest races I've ever had in my life,” said Keefe. “One of the ways I made it seem like a normal race is talking to (Andrew) Kurka and Laurie Stephens. They have been doing this for years and they have great experience, their advice helped me out a lot. I am excited for the days to come here.”  

 

Joining Keefe in the men’s standing downhill and coming off of a memorable evening in Beijing where he served as a flag bearer for the U.S. team, Tyler Carter (Topton, Pennsylvania) finished 31st with a time of 1.28.78. Connor Hogan (Foxborough, Massachusetts) finished in 28th position with a 1.23.89; and Spencer Wood (Pittsfield, Vermont) took 16th with a 1.20.55. Andrew Haraghey (Enfield, Connecticut) had the best finish for the Americans in the men’s standing downhill with a 1.20.25 to claim 15th.

 

Five-time Paralympian, Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) was the only female athlete competing on the first day of the alpine competition for Team USA. Stephens also recorded a DNF after crashing out on the run.  

 

Carter, Drugan, Keefe, Haraghey, Hogan and Wood are scheduled for tomorrow’s super-G. Teammates Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado) and Allie Johnson (Western Spring, Illinois) are also slotted to get their Beijing 2022 Games debut underway.  

 

Connor Hogan is looking forward to the event. “I am really excited for the super-G,” said Hogan. “It is going to be a blast! This is hill is one of the most legit hills we've run in a few years now it is awesome to be able to ski on it and I think the race tomorrow really suits my skill set.”  

 

Don’t miss a minute of action from the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games as all events will be streamed live across NBC’s Peacock. Follow U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for daily updates from Beijing.