Making a push for the cup | ParkRecord.com

Making a push for the cup

Christopher Kamrani, Of the Record staff

Next week’s 23rd annual Huntsman Cup ski races will be a platform for people from all around the world to do one thing:

Chase down their dreams.

For the past 23 years, the Huntsman Cup has been a staple in the adaptive skiing realm and for the past 23 years it has been located in Park City.

Sue Greenberg, a ski coach for the National Ability Center (NAC), remembers her coaching days with the Canadian Adaptive Team and the trips to Park City for the annual Huntsman Cup races.

Now in her third year with the NAC, Greenberg’s job is to coach the athletes she works with to get to where they want to be. Whether it is providing coaching feedback, off-season conditioning, work in the gym, travel arrangements or event booking, Greenberg is a do-it-all coach.

"Most of the guys use it as a stepping stone," Greenberg said. "They come here, compete. Depending on how well you do you earn points and they’re all striving to make their national teams."

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"They’ve been working all season to get their levels up."

Monday morning on Picabo’s Run at Park City Mountain Resort Greenberg and other NAC ski team staff were helping coach athletes coming down the hill.

The Huntsman Cup consists of two days of giant slalom races and one day of slalom races. It’s an official NorAm race, which is a step below the World Cup circuit. Most racers will be using the Huntsman Cup as one last tune-up race for respective national-team qualifying races.

There are three racing categories in the Huntsman Cup: visually impaired, standing athletes and sitting athletes.

Teague Cowley, a 31-year-old Park City resident remembers his Huntsman Cup race last year. He missed the podium by a few seconds, which has made his drive to reach the top even stronger.

"There’s always extra incentive to do well on your home hill," he said. "But we also have an advantage, because we’re here every day. This hill is one of the steepest ones on our circuit, so it tends to separate the men from the boys."

In his fifth full-time season of adaptive ski racing, Cowley has been improving every year according to Greenberg, and this year’s cup race will provide him with another chance to achieve the next step.

"The race is really cool because it attracts a lot of athletes from all over the country and from all over the world," Cowley said. "Because we have so few NorAm’s, we’re able to gather a lot of people for them. People come out and watch the races, because you’re going to see all different types of levels of ability and all different sorts of disabilities."

Also practicing Monday morning was 22-year-old Arly Velasquez, a native of Mexico City, and a monoskier in his second competitive racing season.

After breaking his back racing mountain bikes, Velasquez looks forward to be able to continue to compete in his favorite venue the outdoors.

"I’m trying to dedicate my whole life being aware of myself aware of being healthy, active, doing sports; that’s what I want to do," he said.

"And if that’s what you want to do, you have to do it well. You need a lot of support."

Velasquez says he’s excited to race at the resort where he learned to monoski.

"I think it’s a really good thing we have the last race here and local," he said. "We’ve been training at this hill, so it should be a good advantage for us."

The NAC expects there to be several countries represented at this year’s Huntsman Cup, including Canada, United States, Mexico, Poland and Turkey. The races will be held at Eagle Race Arena at PCMR March 9-11. Athletes will continue to train at PCMR through March 4.

Points accumulated through the Huntsman Cup can help racers work toward qualifying for the World Cup circuit, which eventually could lead to qualification for the Paralympics.

Greenberg is looking forward to seeing some of her racers have the chance to shine competing against some of the world’s top talent.

"I know everybody likes to have this idea of bringing home the gold, but on a realistic level, we’re just waiting to see how they stack up against some of these guys who are world champions," she said. "And seeing how our hard work for the year has paid off. We just look for them to make improvements on each race."

As members of the U.S. Ski Team trained alongside athletes from the NAC, Cowley said he finds motivation from watching his fellow skiers.

"Just by going out and being outside and out there, whether it’s here in Park City or anywhere, you always lead the way, whether you’re disabled or not," he said.

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