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PARALYMPICS: Cook adds to medal tally with bronze in 20 km classic

PARALYMPICS: Cook adds to medal tally with bronze in 20 km classic{mosimage}SESTRIERE, Italy – He may not have been on top of the podium, but for American Steve Cook the smile on his face told it all. After already winning two gold medals at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Cook was on the podium for a third time, this time wearing bronze with his third-place finish in the men’s standing 20-kilometer classic race.

‘This has been an amazing week. I’ve had so much fun’ he said. ‘I am happy with my race today. It was a tough, long race. The Russians were on fire today and I did everything in my power to hang on, but they just had a little more in the tank than I did. I am not disappointed with third place at all. This whole week has been incredible.’

Cook finished the grueling 20 km with a time of 59 minutes, 42.2 seconds. Russia took gold and silver in the race, with Kirill Mikhaylov winning in 58:44.3 and Alfis Makamedinov right behind him with a time of 58:45.8.

Mike Crenshaw finished 16th with a time of 1:05:17.2. These were Crenshaw’s fourth Paralympic Games, and at 51 years old, they are likely his last.

‘This has been awesome. Being here with this team was a blast, and I’m happy with the way I skied. I definitely enjoyed the relay the most — the team events are where it’s at. Just being here and seeing Cook win gold was enough for me.’

First-time Paralympian Dan Perkins took 19th place in the 20K with a time of 1:07.02.9. Though he did not place as high as he would have hoped, he said the experience alone was one that he will always remember.

‘The Paralympic Games are pretty incredible’ he said. ‘I am so impressed with the competition.’

Perkins echoed praise for Cook’s performances. ‘He is the best in the world the golden boy. To be able to train with Cook and Crenshaw is a huge benefit for me. They are two of the greatest models and competitors in the sport. We have a great time together and that’s what it is all about. We compete hard and then we have fun.’

On the women’s side, Kelly Underkofler took 10th place in the 15 km classic race, finishing with a time of 1:01:44.5. First place went to Katarzyna Bogowiec of Poland (52:41.0). Anna Burmistrova of Russia was second (54:29.1) and Yulia Batenkova of Ukraine was third (55:20.0).

‘It feels good to be done’ Underkofler said. ‘I had a lot of races, and overall, I feel pretty good about my results. There were some races that were more stressful than the others, but I gave it my best and I had fun. It has been a really fun experience.’

Jon Kreamelmeyer, head coach for the Nordic squad, was happy with the results for the final day of competition.

‘You know, this has been a great week for our team. Cook really came through against some tough competition. The race today was a really hard-fought battle, and the two Russians just seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. I am happy with the way everyone skied and I think we have a lot to be proud of.’

All events for the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games are now complete. The Closing Ceremony will take place Sunday night in Torino.


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