Laurie Stephens (far left) and Saylor O'Brien (far right) pose for photos on the podium after winning medals in the super-G in Espot.
ESPOT, SPAIN – The first day of competition at the 2023 FIS Para Alpine World Championships began with super-G events after several days of cancellations due to weather. Five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) and world championship newcomer Saylor O’Brien (Woodland, Utah) grabbed the United States’ first medals taking home second and third place finishes respectively in the women’s sitting category. All nine of the Team USA’s roster of athletes competed in the opening event with three additional Paralympians – Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado), Allie Johnson (Western Springs, Illinois) and Matthew Brewer (Huntington Beach, California) – securing top ten finishes.
For Stephens, the silver medal comes after a back injury last season that resulted in an early exit from the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. Stephens’ impressive list of accolades now includes 16 world championship podium appearances alongside her seven Paralympic medal wins.
“I’m just really glad we finally got to race,” said Stephens. “It’s been a long five days waiting for the weather to clear up. It’s good to actually get some skiing in and get on the hill to check it out.”
“I don’t really have too many expectations coming [here], I’m just coming back from injury so focusing on my progression and building back up strength-and-conditioning, and my skiing from that.”
Only two weeks after her international debut, 19-year-old Saylor O’Brien continues to shine taking home her first career world championship medal. O’Brien took home a silver (slalom) and bronze (giant slalom) in her first world cup races earlier this month.
“It feels so good,” said O’Brien. “I’m super stoked and happy to be out here…I’m certainly ecstatic and don’t know what to think at this point. I’m really excited for the next few days and to see where things go.”
“Definitely a big confidence builder up today, I was going into this event nervous with not having some ski days to get things rolling and together so I feel like I can focus more now on what I need to do tomorrow to get on the podium again.”
Beijing Paralympic silver medalist Thomas Walsh grabbed a world’s 10th best time in the men’s standing category though his performance wasn’t as spotless as he would have liked.
“It was a little bit turny but it was a great course,” said Walsh. “After sitting on the butt for a couple of days you kind of forget what you’re doing but I’m actually pretty happy with how I did that. I didn’t quite execute my own plan, but I had fun and know what I can do better next time.”
Nearly 100 athletes from over 25 countries have joined together in Espot, Spain for Para alpine’s biggest competition of the 2023 season. The competition also marks the first world championship event since the sport’s international governance transfer from the IPC to FIS. All events will be streamed through FIS here with live results available to view at this link.
Competition resumes Tuesday, Jan. 24 with alpine combined races beginning at 10:15 a.m. local time/3 a.m. EST. Follow U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Espot.
Monday, Jan. 23 – Super-G Results
Laurie Stephens - women’s sitting
Saylor O’Brien - women’s sitting
Allie Johnson – 7th, women’s standing
Matthew Brewer – 10th, men’s sitting
Thomas Walsh – 10th, men’s standing
Ravi Drugan – 13th, men’s sitting
Jesse Keefe – 20th, men’s standing
Patrick Halgren – 22nd, men’s standing
Andrew Haraghey – DSQ
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