FILE UNDER -- Nordic

PARALYMPICS: Bramble, Devlin-Young go 1-2 in alpine; Cook nabs nordic gold

PARALYMPICS: Bramble, Devlin-Young go 1-2 in alpine; Cook nabs nordic gold{mosimage}The U.S. Paralympic alpine ski team lived up to expectations Sunday in the downhill competition, with Kevin Bramble defending his Salt Lake title with a gold medal, and Chris Devlin-Young nabbing the silver in the men’s field.

Competition was fierce among the men mono-skiers. The difference between second place and sixth was only .67 seconds.

‘The competition today was fun and the course was fast’ Bramble said. ‘It took my best run to get up there and win the medal.’

An impressive performance by three-time defending World Cup overall champion Laurie Stephens led to a gold medal in the women’s sitting category. Despite getting flagged and having to restart, and then a near-crash where she almost knocked herself out of the running, the first-time Paralympian stayed the course and finished strong with a time of 1:29.96.

‘I figured I was already behind. I might as well just point it [straight downhill] for the rest of the way and see how much time I could make up’ Stephens said.

Devlin-Young, who has already played an active role in the Paralympic Games after being chosen as flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony, came into the competition with am ambitious goal of ‘Gold x 4.’ ‘Being flag bearer for the American Team raised my level of expectations’ Devlin-Young said. ‘This [experience] has been more special than just winning a medal.’

That doesn’t mean that he has lost his fire for gold, though. ‘I expect to repeat my performance form Salt Lake with a first place in super G’ he said.

Carl Burnett also skied a great race, ultimately finishing in fifth place with a time of 1:22.48, only .28 seconds behind the bronze podium position. Tyler Walker finished 15th.

On the women’s side, Lacey Heward finished fourth with a time of 1:36.57.

The stand-up skiers race Monday, March 13, in the super G. The men and women mono-skiers compete again in the super G on Tuesday, March 14.

Sestriere Borgata, Italy March 12, 2006

Women’s downhill (sitting)
1. Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.) 1:29.96
2. Kuniko Obinata (JPN) 1:30.89
3. Claudia Loesch (AUT) 1:31.30
4. Lacey Heward (Boise, Idaho) 1:36.57

Did Not Start (DNS)
Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah)

Men’s downhill (sitting)
1. Kevin Bramble (Truckee, Calif.) 1:21.03
2. Chris Devlin-Young (Campton, N.H.) 1:22.04
3. Denis Barbet (FRA) 1:22.20
– – –
5. Carl Burnett (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) 1:22.48
– – –
15. Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.) 1:25.79

Did not start (DNS)
Roger Lee (Winter Park, Colo.)
Gerald Hayden (Fresno, Calif.)

Did not finish (DNF)
Joe Tompkins (Juneau, Ala.)
Nick Catanzarite (Winter Park, Colo.)

Cook wins nordic gold
Sestriere, Italy It was a golden day for the U.S. nordic ski team at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Steve Cook ended a 14-year gold-medal drought, racing to first place in the men’s standing 5 km. It was the first gold medal for the U.S. nordic ski team since the 1992 Paralympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and the fourth gold medal in the U.S. Paralympic cross-country team’s history.

Cook, a three-time Paralympian, skied with determination. He came out of the start with great speed and power, leading through the first kilometer. By the halfway point, he had slipped into third place, but he powered over the final hill and hammered it home, finishing with a time of 12:36.2 for the gold.

Following the race, Cook raised his arms in celebration and met his teammates with a broad smile on his face.

‘Wow…this is amazing’ he said. ‘I really did not expect this. I have had a pretty difficult year and to get out there and win feels great. There aren’t words to describe how I feel right now. That was a pretty intense race and it feels so good to have finally skied well. It’s an awesome feeling.’

Cook has been competing on the U.S. national team for 10 years. He won four silver medals at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and was the 2005 World Cup overall champion.

‘It is such an honor to even be competing here against these guys’ Cook said. ‘The Paralympic Games are an amazing event. There are so many great athletes here, all pushing each other and encouraging each other. This takes a lot of pressure off of me for the rest of my races [10 km, 20 km and relay].’

The silver medal in men’s standing 5 km went to Siarhei Silchanka of Belarus (12:41.0) and the bronze went to Thomas Oelsner of Germany (12:45.3).

Also competing in the men’s 5 km for the U.S. squad were Dan Perkins, who came in 26th (15:05.2), and Mike Crenshaw, who was 27th (15:26.9).

In the men’s 2.5 km sitting race, Bob Balk was the top U.S. finisher, placing 11th with a time of 16:46.3. First-time Paralympians Chris Klebl and Greg Mallory were 23rd and 24th, respectively, with Klebl racing to a time of 18:15.5 and Mallory coming in at 18:20.7.

Balk was pleased with his finish and said, ‘I feel great out there. My skis were fast, I was prepared, and it all went really well.’

On the women’s side, all three of the U.S. athletes finished in the top 10of their respective races. Kelly Underkofler took eighth place in the standing 5 km with a time of 17:02.6. Having placed fourth in the biathlon a day earlier, Underkofler had a strong race against another very tough field.

‘I feel like I did my best’ she said. ‘I am happy with the way that I skied today, there is just a lot of really great competition out there.’

Candace Cable was eighth in the sitting 2.5 km with a time of 9:48.7. These are Cable’s 10th Paralympic Games, and, at 51 years old, she is a tough competitor. ‘I’m really happy with my finish’ she said. ‘I’m feeling great, and am looking forward to the rest of my races.’

Monica Bascio was right behind Cable, finishing ninth in the sitting 2.5 km with a time of 10:04.1.

Jon Kreamelmeyer, the head coach of the nordic team, was extremely proud of his team.

‘It has been a really good day for our team’ he said. ‘I am so proud and happy for Steve. He is a quality guy who has worked hard for a really long time and he definitely deserves this. There are a lot of components that go into his win. It kind of feels like a gold medal for the whole team. There’s the countless hours Steve has spent training, his determination to overcome his illness from earlier in the year, all of the techs who work hard on making our skis as fast as possible…it was a fun day and it is great to see Steve so excited.’

Competition continues Tuesday with short-distance biathlon. The middle distance cross-country races take place on Wednesday.


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