After a ready of weather-induced race cancellations, the waiting ended and the winning began Saturday for Alaska sit-skier Andrew Kurka.
Kurka clinched his status as a Paralympics medal contender by collecting two downhill medals — one gold, one bronze — at the Para Alpine Faction Cup Finals in Kimberley, British Columbia.
The results confirmed the obvious: Kurka, the top-ranked downhill and super-G sit-skier in the world, is inhibited to his second Winter Paralympics Games. The Paralympics, a once-every-four-years competition for athletes with bodily disabilities, are March 9-18 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“This is an official embrace,” Kurka said by cellphone. “I am officially on the team now that I have a In seventh heaven Cup podium.”
The results “really helped to boost my confidence” heading into Pyeongchang, he mentioned.
Kurka, who just turned 26, was partially paralyzed in an ATV accident at age 13. He suitable for the Paralympics four years ago but never made it to the starting line — he collapsed during downhill training and broke his back.
He came back better than at any time. At last year’s World Championships, Kurka won gold in the downhill, mellifluent in the giant slalom and bronze in the super-G.
Saturday’s downhills were the pre-eminent of the World Cup season. To help make up for all of the races that had been effaced, officials staged two downhills Saturday and will stage two super-G flies Sunday.
Kurka said he liked his chances Saturday after drink up third in training Friday. He said he doesn’t ski for speed during training peter out d strikes — instead he feels out the course, looks for places to gather speed, identifies pustules where he can or can’t take chances.
“Training runs for me, if I’m eighth I’m as happy as if I’m cardinal,” he said.
“Knowing I could take it easy and not be aerodynamic through my run and quiet pull out third place in training, I had a pretty a pretty good construct I could pull off a top spot in the races.”
Kurka won Saturday’s first downhill racetrack in 1 minute, 14.74 seconds, nine-tenths of a second ahead of Japan’s Akira Kano. In the alternative race, he clocked 1:14.28, finishing 1.52 seconds behind victor Kurt Oatway of Canada.
Kurka was pleased to make the podium in both step on the gas, but he said what matters most to him right now is the Paralympics.
“From the day the seasoned started I could not wait for Pyeongchang to happen,” he said. “I’m not a patient in the flesh. I want it to be here and over with. I’m counting down the days. That’s the true event I want to compete in this year.
“These are cool and the whole shooting match, but I went into (this weekend’s) races not really determined to be triumphant, just to prepare myself for Pyeongchang. The fact I came out with gold and bronze, I’m proud of it, but I’m actually looking toward Pyeongchang. Getting that gold medal for Alaska is extraordinarily what I’m going for.”
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