Vail’s Thomas Walsh won Wednesday’s Para Alpine Skiing World Cup giant slalom in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, and dedicated the victory to Jeff Shiffrin, who passed away earlier this month.
Walsh, a cancer survivor, and Mikela Shiffrin grew up together skiing and have been close friends throughout the years.
Walsh, wearing “Be Nice. Think first. Have fun,” Jeff’s words by which to live, taped to the front of his helmet, posted on Twitter after his win.
“Jeff Shiffrin, who passed away, a really good friend of mine, I owe a lot to him, helping me continue to live and continue to ski race,” Walsh said in his video tweet. “I just want to give a shoutout to the entire Shiffrin family, Mikaela, Taylor, Eileen and all the extended family. I’ve been thinking about Jeff. I’ve had this on my helmet every day. He was definitely with me as I won this GS.”
When Walsh was 14, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He completed his radiation treatment in 2010. In the process of fighting the disease, he had parts of his lung and pelvis removed.
Having skied with Shiffrin in then-Ski Club Vail, Walsh and the Shiffrin family stayed close through his trials and travails.
“He has that kind of ‘zest-for-life’ that is very rare, very contagious, and cannot be stifled. Not even by cancer,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press last spring. “Thomas was always a much better athlete than I was. He was literally good at everything. I mean, everything. Skiing, soccer, a triathlon, dancing, acting, singing, school — you name it. He did it all and he was always the best.”
Walsh has gone on to make the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team. Walsh finished fifth at the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. He won two bronze medals at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy.
And Wednesday, he won by 0.21 seconds over Arthur Bauchet in the giant slalom. With the victory came a heartfelt message to Jeff and the Shiffrin family.
“It is one of the messages I carry in my heart,” Walsh said on Twitter. “I find myself in debt to people who helped me overcome my cancer treatment and continue to support me while living with a disability. Jeff was one of the most influential people (to help) me do that.”