ESPOT, SPAIN – It was a trio of impressive finishes for three American athlete on the grand finale as Paralympians Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado) and Allie Johnson (Western Springs, Illinois) snagged a top five spot while Jesse Keefe (Bellevue, Idaho) placed sixth in the final standings of the slalom competition. All nine Team USA athletes made their way to the hill for the fifth and final day of races at the 2023 FIS Para Alpine World Championships in Espot. The program originally had the men’s and women’s races split across two days however weather and wind conditions continued to be a factor and forced another postponement on Saturday, Jan. 28.
While it turned out to be a tough course for a slew of athletes across all nations, Paralympic silver medalist Walsh grabbed the top U.S. spot in the men’s standing class with a combined time of 1:08.87. Not far behind was the team’s youngest competitor Keefe who impressed with a career-best finish of sixth place in 1:11.89 just behind Walsh. Teammates Andrew Haraghey (Enfield, Connecticut) and Patrick Halgren (Tolland, Connecticut) wrapped up the standing class with 12th and 13th place finish respectively.
“It feels great and shows that my progress in training is paying off,” said Keefe. “I’m getting closer and closer to where I need to be. It’s only the first year of this quad so I’m excited to keep moving forward and keep on training. We’ve got a couple more races this season so I want to see if I can keep up this pace.”
“Because the trail is in the shadow, [the course] was super slick but you just have to stand on it. Overall I think it was pretty good snow for race conditions – grippy, firm and fast – so I personally really enjoyed it out there today.”
In just her second world championship appearance, Johnson’s time of 2:15.94 was enough to get her into the top five in the women’s standing class. Johnson leaves Spain with a career best finishes in much of her events - slalom, alpine combined, super-G and downhill – an event that took years for her to get back to after injury.
“I’m really happy with world championships in general,” said Johnson. “I had a couple of good turns today so excited to see what’s next. [I’m taking] confidence away, I’m excited with how the last couple weeks went and know to keep working hard because I know that all my hard work got me here and can’t wait to see where else it takes me.”
It was a tough ending for the men’s and women’s sit skiers as all four U.S. competitors were unable to finish the race between the first and second runs. Double bronze medalist Saylor O’Brien (Woodland, Utah)) was forced out of contention in the first run while Paralympian Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts), Matthew Brewer (Huntington Beach, California) and Ravi Drugan (Eugene, Oregon) all slipped off course in the second run.
Stephens heads home as the most decorated U.S. athlete of the 2023 world championships with three silver medal wins during the week’s events in the women’s super-G, alpine combined and giant slalom competitions.
The 2022-23 season continues with trips to Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Kitzbuehel and Milan-Cortina, which will also act as a test event for the 2026 Winter Paralympic Games, for the next stops on the World Cup circuit. The season will conclude in Kimberly, Canada for the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championships held March 24-28. Follow U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Espot.
Sunday, Jan. 29 - Slalom Results
Allie Johnson – 5th, women’s standing
Thomas Walsh – 5th, men’s standing
Jesse Keefe – 6th, men’s standing
Andrew Haraghey – 12th, men’s standing
Patrick Halgren – 13th, men’s standing
Matthew Brewer – DNF
Saylor O’Brien – DNF
Ravi Drugan – DNF
Laurie Stephens – DNF
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