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Disabled: Allison Jones, Laurie Stephens shine at The Hartford Ski Spectacular

Disabled: Allison Jones, Laurie Stephens shine at The Hartford Ski SpectacularThe 18th annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular was held in Breckenridge, Colorado, Dec. 4-11. It is the nation’s largest winter sports event for people with physical disabilities and includes men’s and women’s NorAm slalom and giant slalom races in standup and sit-ski categories.

Slalom

One-legged skier Allison Jones (LW-2; Colorado Springs, Colo.) overcame subzero weather to win the women’s standup category in slalom Thursday, Dec. 8, in a NorAm on the first day of The Hartford’s 18th annual Ski Spectacular at Breckenridge Ski Area.

In -4 temperatures, Jones took a first-run lead of more than two seconds and rolled to victory with an adjusted time of 1:46.61 with veteran Rheinhild Moeller (LW-4) of Germany in second place (1:49.44). Sandy Dukat (LW-2; Chicago) finished third.

World Cup champion Laurie Stephens (LW-12/1; Wenham, Mass.) cruised to the sit-skier win in 1:48.73 with Swedish veteran Ronny Persson (LW-10/2) winning the men’s sit-skier category by just .18 ahead of Roger Lee (LW-11; Wildomar, Calif.). Brad Washburn (LW-4; Littleton, Colo.) was the men’s standup winner by .38 over Monte Meier (LW-2; Park City, Utah).

‘It was good, tough weather, no question – down around 25 below when we got to the hill by 8 o’clock’ U.S. head coach Kevin Jardine said, ‘but everyone knew how important it is that we get the race run so athletes get some results to go up for qualifying criteria for the Paralympics … and we got some excellent racing.

”Jonezy’ and Laurie, as expected, skied well, but it was good to see Sandy skiing well, too’ he said. ‘And Brad really stepped up; he wants to be on that team for Torino, and this was outstanding. He was with us during our camp in Austria [on the Hintertux Glacier in October] and it’s paying off.’

Giant slalom

For the second time in 24 hours, disabled World Cup champion Laurie Stephens (LW-12/1; Wenham, Mass.) and world champion Allison Jones (LW-2; Colorado Springs, Colo.) captured their respective categories Friday in a NorAm giant slalom at The Hartford’s Ski Spectacular.

Stephens, who swept all four World Cup titles in the 2005 season, won the sit-skier category at Breckenridge Ski Area with an adjusted, two-run time of 1:48.31 with Stephani Victor (LW-12/2; Park City, Utah) second in 1:53.86. Completing the podium in 10-degree weather was Lacey Heward (LW-11; Boise, Idaho).

Jones, triple gold medalist at the 2004 Disabled World Championships, won the women’s standup category in 1:52.06, finishing .41 ahead of German veteran Rheinhild Moeller (LW-4) with Sandy Dukat (LW-2; Chicago) in third place.

In the men’s standup category, George Sansonetis (LW-9/2; Fraser, Colo.) edged Monte Meier (LW-2; Park City, Utah) by nearly two seconds; his winning time was 1:43.67. Jim Lagerstrom (LW-4; Dearborn, Mich.) was third, another second off the pace.

Nick Catazarite (LW-10/1; Winter Park, Colo.) took the men’s sit-skiing competition with a time of 1:42.44, more than a second ahead of world champion Chris Devlin-Young (LW-12/1; Campton, N.H.). Swede Ronny Persson (LW-10/2) was third.

‘We saw a lot of good skiing over these two days of NorAms’ U.S. head coach Kevin Jardine said. ‘We know Laurie and Stephani are strong, and they showed it … and Sandy, after her crash last season, has come back very solid. She’s done a nice job adjusting to some new technique. Overall, it was good for the coaches to see where we are; our focus in these NorAms was to focus on the changes, not just how fast someone’s skiing. We like what we’ve seen.’

Jardine said U.S. Disabled Ski Team athletes made considerable changes in technique during the preseason. ‘They’re probably the biggest changes in technique in several years’ he said, ‘because of the extra time on snow we had at Mount Hood, down in New Zealand and over in Austria. I’d say the majority of our athletes made some big steps toward improving their technique.’

Sit-skiers are making adjustments, he explained, because of a rules change in slalom, reducing the maximum distance between gates to 13 meters. ‘They’re got to be quick in slalom and on the flat at the bottom of this course, that’s particularly tough’ Jardine said.

He singled out Catanzarite’s victory – ‘being consistent and nailing two runs is a major improvement for Nick. We’ve been working on his balance a lot and this shows what great potential he’s got.’

The weather was an improvement over Thursday’s subzero temperatures ‘and we had two good, difficult courses because we had such good terrain to work with at Breck.’

He said three skiers – Kevin Bramble (LW-12/1; Truckee, Calif.), Elitsa Storey (LW-2; Sun Valley, Idaho, and Hannah Pennington (LW-9/2; Denver) would leave in the next few days for Europa Cup races to further boost their international ranking. Coach Erin Sullivan will accompany the threesome.

Veterans Clay Fox (L-4; Gillette, Wyo.) and Tyler Walker (LW-12/2; Franconia, N.H.) missed the NorAms because they were completing college classes. ‘They’ll be getting in some training on their own before we get together again at the Huntsman Cup [Jan. 3-5] in Park City [Utah], and I’m not overly concerned because Clay and Ty are tremendously motivated, especially in this Paralympic season.’

Courtesy USSA News Bureau

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