February 27, 2010
Park City’s Stephani Victor just added another memento to her already crowded trophy case.
Competing against an international field of athletes, Victor went home with the Huntsman Cup Thursday by winning all three of the races she entered.
Victor, the defending women’s sit-ski world champion in slalom, giant slalom and super combined, was the class of the competition at Park City Mountain Resort, winning two giant slaloms and a slalom in three days of racing on the same runs used for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
The event attracted adaptive ski racers from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Iceland, Japan and New Zealand. Some, like Victor and fellow Parkite Monte Meier, used the races as a rehearsal for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
Meier, who lost his leg in a garden-tilling accident when he was eight, is a "three-tracker," competing on one leg and outriggers (small skis on the bottom of his poles). On Tuesday he set the pace in the giant slalom, winning by more than a second over Canada’s Kirk Schornstein. In the overall Huntsman Cup standings this week he finished in second place behind Schornstein.
Victor, who lost both her legs above the knee in a 1995 accident, was introduced to adaptive ski racing in 1999 while promoting a role in a movie during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. She took her first lesson from Marcel Kuonen, then the head ski coach for the National Ability Center (NAC). She fell in love with ski racing and with Kuonen, who is now her husband, her coach and her ski serviceman.
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"I rely on him tremendously," Victor said. "He knows how I think on a race course and he gives me feedback as to how to best prepare for a race."
Victor won her first U.S. championship (slalom) in 2000 and her first World Cup race (giant slalom) in 2002. Her resume now includes 17 World Cup victories, five World Cup season titles and four world championships. She won a bronze medal in downhill at the Paralympics in 2002 and a gold medal in slalom in 2006. She is the USOC 2009 Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year.
Victor hones her skills by training not only with other NAC athletes but also with the local Masters program and with the Park City Ski Team. Her sponsors include Rossignol, which, she said, has gone out of its way to keep her supplied with equipment.
"It’s really a great feeling to know that so many people are behind you locally," she said. "We have an incredible network here. It gives you permission to go out and do your best."
According to NAC spokesman Ryan Jensen, this week’s range of weather and course conditions gave athletes a good taste of what they’ll face when they travel to Whistler next month. And the local skiers were up to the challenge.
"Stephani and Monte both showed they have a great deal of confidence going into the Paralympics in Vancouver," he said.
On March 7, Victor, Meier and other members of the U.S. team will pack their bags and head to Vancouver to begin training for the Paralympics, which are scheduled to begin March 12.
Meier is scheduled to compete in slalom, super G, super combined and downhill at Whistler. Victor is scheduled to compete in slalom, giant slalom, super G and super combined in other words, everything but downhill.
If her recent results are any indication, she may have to expand that trophy case.