Winter Park athletes well represented at Paralympics
March 16, 2010
An alpine skier who trains full-time under the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Adam Hall, garnered a gold medal in the standing division of the Paralympics slalom competition on Monday while skiing for New Zealand.
Hall edged Germany’s silver-medal winner Gerd Schonfelder, who entered Vancouver with 17 Paralympic alpine medals, including 14 golds.
Seven athletes claiming Winter Park as their home are competing in the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, which started March 12 and continue to March 21.
Another 23 athletes – 15 of whom are competing for nations other than the U.S. – are connected to Winter Park through their training under the NSCD.
Seven of the 10 athletes on the U.S. women’s Paralympic alpine team trained under NSCD, and eight of the 14 athletes on the U.S. Paralympic alpine men’s team trained under NSCD, according to NSCD CEO and president Craig Pollitt.
U.S. Ski Team sit skiers Nick Catanzarite and Gerald Hayden, standing skiers Ian Jansing, George Sansonetis, Brad Washburn and Hannah Pennington, and vision impaired skier Danielle Umstead are seven of 50 athletes from 20 states who are representing Team USA at the Games. The seven all claim Winter Park or Fraser as home base.
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With slalom races wrapped up, skiing continues for the alpine athletes with the giant slalom scheduled for March 16-17, the downhill scheduled for March 18, the Super-G on March 20, and the Super Combined on March 21.
The sitting, standing and visually impaired slalom racing took place Sunday and Monday at Whistler Creekside, during which Gerald Hayden finished 16th out of 47 competitors in the sitting division, finishing 15.41 seconds behind first-place finisher Martin Braxenthaler of Germany.
Hayden placed in the top 20 despite a rough go during his second run.
“It was just the snow,” he said. “You don’t always get the best conditions for your style. … I came in through the quad and just the last gate, the ski kind of hooked up on edge and wouldn’t release. It’s just kind of weird, slushy, grippy kind of stuff. I lost my momentum.”
Hayden, who was a recreational skier and snowboarder before he suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 1995, improved upon his Torino Paralympics slalom competition, where he had finished 19th. He was scheduled to compete in the giant slalom on Tuesday along with teammate Nick Catanzarite of Winter Park, who will also will compete in the super-G on Friday.
Slalom, visually impaired
For the visually impaired division in slalom racing on Sunday, Danielle Umstead with husband and guide Rod Umstead did not finish for having tipped a gate on the first run. Ranked eighth in the world going into this year’s Games, Umstead took it all in stride.
“My tip went into the gate and then my ski fell off,” the Winter Park skier said. “Slalom’s pretty hard for me. It’s a lot of visual going on, but it’s good. It was a good course. It was firm. It was fun. I was having a good time up until then. It’s ski racing – it happens.”
Umstead still has chances for a medal, competing next in the downhill, giant slalom, super-G and women’s super combined races.
All three of the USA’s visually impaired alpine athletes are competing in their first Paralympic Winter Games. Loss of Umstead’s sight stems from Retinitis Pigmentosa.
In slalom races in the standing division, Hannah Pennington of Winter Park ended up 16th after her second run 32.27 seconds behind gold-place finisher Lauren Woolstencroft of Canada.
Brad Washburn of Winter Park had a top-10 finish, placing ninth just 4.21 seconds behind gold-medalist Hall.
“I felt like I got hung up a little bit,” Washburn said after his second run. “The snow was a little softer than the first run. I wasn’t expecting that. All in all I feel like I had a good run.”
Washburn, who lost his leg below the knee when he was 11 months old, will go on to race in the downhill, Super-G and Giant Slalom races this week.
Four-time Paralympian George Sansonetis of Fraser was disqualified for missing a gate after a rough start in his first run. Sansonetis, who suffers from dystonia – a movement disorder that causes muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily – has been looking to return to the medal stand since his Paralympic Winter Games debut in Nagano in 1998.
His next Vancouver medal attempts are in the downhill, the giant slalom and the Super-G. His Winter Park teammate Ian Jansing will also be competing in the giant slalom.
Three-time Paralympian Pennington said she skied more aggressively during her second slalom run, which moved her up one notch from 17th place.
“I wanted to go out and have fun,” she said. “If you crash, you crash. You just want to find the finish line having a good time.”
Pennington, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, is still looking for her first medal. Her best finish came in Salt Lake in the giant slalom when she finished fifth. The giant slalom is her next event in the Vancouver Games.
Athletes noted firm snow conditions and fog rolling in toward the top of the course on Monday morning, making for diminished visibility.
Last Saturday’s downhill competition at Whistler’s Creekside had been postponed due to fog.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.