Image Credit: Team USA

After a heartbreaking crash in a training run in Sochi in 2014, Alaska’s Andrew Kurka returned victoriously to win gold in the men’s sitting downhill on the first day of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team garnered two medals as Laurie Stephens also brought home bronze in the women’s race.

Kurka returned to the podium for the second day in a row as he won silver in the men’s sitting super-G competition at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games .

“To be a champion in the Paralympic Games is the greatest honor I could ask for,” Kurka said of his downhill performance. “The fact that I came out here and I put down the very first Paralympic medal for Alaska, my home state, and the fact that it’s gold, to me is a fantastic feeling.”

The eighth skier to compete, Kurka stormed to a dominant lead and held off a competitive field of more than 25 athletes for his first Paralympic medal. Kurka’s time of 1:24.11 bested runner-up and four-time Paralympic medalist Taiki Morii of Japan by more than a second and a half. This was his largest margin of victory ever in a downhill race.

In the super-G, Kurka stormed down the course and managed to pull through, nearly losing his balance at the end to stay upright and cross the finish line. Kurka finished just more than a second behind gold medalist Kurt Oatway of Canada, grabbing silver by nine-hundredths of a second over Frederic Francois of France.

“Being a two-time Paralympic medalist is a dream come true, and it feels like everything up to this point has been worth it,” Kurka said. “That’s really what the feeling is for me. When it comes down to it, simply put, this event was redemption for me. All the injuries — breaking my back in Sochi, breaking my femur, all those broken bones — come down to being worth it. And this is a huge step in my future. It’s a goal that not many people get to accomplish in their lives, and it’s something I’ve accomplished now, and that I’m extremely grateful for. And I’m hoping to keep the momentum going.”

Stephens claimed bronze in the women’s sitting downhill in a repeat of her result from Sochi. Stephens cemented her status as the most decorated member of the U.S. Paralympic Team as she now owns seven Paralympic medals (two gold, two silver and three bronze).

“I’m pretty excited,” Stephens shared. “I was really nervous this morning, and I’m just so happy that I was able to win a bronze. This track was fast and the snow was firm. We had a couple of rough days in the training runs, so it is great that the weather was so awesome. I just remember how much I love skiing. I do this because I love the sport of skiing and I love going out and making turns and going fast, and I just have to remind myself that I’m here because I love to ski.”

The Paralympics continue through March 18. A full schedule is available here.

1st: Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Ala./men’s sitting)
3rd: Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass./women’s sitting)
7th: Melanie Schwartz (Aspen, Colo./women’s standing); Kevin Burton (Erie, Colo./Navy/visually impaired) and Brandon Powell-Ashby (Boulder, Colo./Marines/ guide)
8th: Stephanie Jallen (Harding, Pa./women’s standing)
18th: Andrew Haraghey (Enfield, Conn./men’s standing); Stephen Lawler (Burlington, Vt./men’s sitting)

2nd: Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska/men’s sitting)
5th: Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass./women’s sitting)
6th: Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah/women’s visually impaired) and Rob Umstead (Park City, Utah/guide)
7th: Ally Kunkel (Steamboat, Colo./women’s standing)
8th: Stephanie Jallen (Harding, Pa./women’s standing)
9th: Kevin Burton (Erie, Colo./Navy/visually impaired) and Brandon Powell-Ashby (Boulder, Colo./Marines/guide)
10th: Staci Mannella (Randolph, N.J./women’s visually impaired) and Sadie DeBaun (Park City, Utah/guide); Melanie Schwartz (Aspen, Colo./women’s standing)
11th: Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash./men’s visually impaired) and Cade Yamamoto (Quincy, Wash./guide)
12th: Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H./men’s sitting)
13th: Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colo./men’s standing)
17th: Jamie Stanton (Oakland Township, Mich./men’s standing)
23rd: Stephen Lawler (Burlington, Vt./men’s sitting)
24th: Andrew Haraghey (Enfield, Conn./men’s standing)

Release courtesy of Team USA.

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