Huntsman’s cup runneth over
It was a big weekend for local Paralympic skier Stephani Victor. The Paralympic sit-skier raced her way to the overall title at the 19th annual Huntsman Cup held at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) Jan. 5-7. The event was hosted by the National Ability Center (NAC).
Victor is no stranger to the top of the podium, with a gold medal in slalom from the Paralympic Games in Turin, and numerous World Cups, but that’s her specialty, so giant slalom wins are always exciting.
"It feels good to win a giant slalom," Victor said. "The last time was the national title in 2003."
Victor has finished second in giant slalom a number of times, so she knew a win was on the horizon. Conditions were less than perfect for the second run on Saturday, but Victor’s experience and talent helped her prevail.
"It feels good, because the visibility was a lot worse and I just wanted to lay down a good second run," Victor said.
Victor coupled Saturday’s win with a second in on Friday and a win over teammate Laurie Stephens in slalom on Sunday to capture the overall victory.
Victor was joined by a number of racers from the U.S. and abroad. Both Canada and Australia brought their ski teams to the competition and were joined by individuals from various countries who traveled to the NorAm competition to increase their International Ski Federation (FIS) point totals and prepare for the World Cup tour that starts in two weeks in Breckenridge, Colo.
Great Britain’s Sean Rose traveled to the Huntsman Cup to earn enough slalom points to ski in the World Cup. The sit-skier was joined by countrywoman Liz Miller, who crashed in Friday’s competition and did not finish the weekend.
The Brit, who was skiing on Utah snow for the first time, took fourth in Friday’s giant slalom, second in Saturday’s behind American Chris Devlin-Young, and fourth in slalom on Sunday. He said his overall experience at the Cup was top-notch.
"I’ve had lots of support from the NAC. I really appreciate it," Rose said. "It’s like a second family. It’s nice to see all the guys here."
Visually-impaired skier Canadian Chris Williamson used the weekend to gain more competition experience with new guide AJ Brown. The duo skied into first all three days.
"It will take awhile," Williamson explained. "This is a NorAm, so it’s not as big. It takes a lot to get in sync, and there’s also skiing to work on."
Williamson is a B-3 rated skier, which means he has about six percent vision or some periphery light perception. With those limits, he must rely on Brown to communicate with him via radio and tell him about the course, the turns and the conditions. Brown skis out right before Williamson in races and generally takes a wider line during runs to allow Williamson the tighter, faster lines.
The second run in the giant slalom on Saturday was an even bigger issue for the visually-impaired skiers, because it limited the visibility of their guides.
"It’s the blind leading the blind," joked Williamson.
Still, the World Cup leader in slalom and giant slalom said that both races felt fast. Sunday’s slalom was a little more challenging for the pair as the gates were closer together, but Williamson says that Brown has a good learning curve.
"I’ve seen 100 percent improvement," Williamson said. "He’s coming along great."
Overall, the Canadians fared well, behind the Americans’ 24 podium finishes.
"We’re doing well," said Canadian assistant coach Matt Kerr." This team has work to do, but they seem keen on being motivated and challenged to new experiences. We bring a lot to the hill."
The Canadian contingent was led by Arly Fogarty, who won both giant slaloms and took third in slalom.
"We’ve done a lot of training since July. I felt confident coming in," Fogarty said.
The Park City Disabled Ski Team also performed well over the weekend. Head coach Marcel Kuonen was particularly pleased with the performance of 16-year-old sit-skier Greg Shaw. Shaw took sixth and eighth place in the giant slalom races and seventh in the slalom against Paralympic-level competition, dominating the juniors division with first place victories.
"We’re looking very good with Greg," Kuonen said. "I’m very happy with him and his skiing."
He also welcomed the icy and snowy conditions, saying that the elements exposed the younger skiers to how challenging and intense a World Cup-level race can be.
"I’m always saying skiing is outside. Sometimes it’s tough when the weather is not so great. You have to put more in skiing ability," Kuonen said. "Our guys have to get used to that."
NAC co-founder and CEO Meeche White was also pleased with the performance of the local team.
"Our kids are coming along strong," White said. "They’ve got their eyes set on 2010 [Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Can.]."
She was also quite pleased with how well PCMR prepared the race course each day, despite some harsh conditions.
"It went very successfully," White said. "Park City Mountain Resort did a great job with the racers."
For complete results, see the Scoreboard section on B-4.
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