National disabled teams enjoy "wild run’ at Breck
Twenty eight gates later, U.S. Army Capt. David Rozelle skied past the same finish line Shannon Dallas of the Australian U.S. Disabled Team crossed moments earlier.
It was the same finish line U.S. Disabled Team member Sandy Dukat crossed, and the same one teammate Ralph Green raced through. Rozelle, an amputee from this summer’s war in Iraq, just learned to ski on his prosthetic this week.
Friday, he raced some of the best disabled athletes in the world.
“What a thrill,” he said. “Not only did these guys help to pick me up, but now I’m racing. This is a wild run.”
While the top-level athletes were dialing in equipment for the upcoming World Cup series, Friday morning’s giant slalom offered another chance for Rozelle to help enhance The Hartford Ski Spectacular, a week-long event that began Monday to promote disabled skiing.
Rozelle and eight other amputees from the war in Iraq were brought in by Disabled Sports U.S.A., an organization founded during the Vietnam War to get wounded veterans competing in sports again.
But Friday’s race was also about pure competition. Top Quantum Sports Club racers competed to help the disabled athletes lower their United States Ski and Snowboard Association points. The lower the points the better, and the better the competition, the more points a racer can shed.
Plus, the race was the first of four events to help disabled athletes qualify for the World Championships Jan. 29 in Austria.
Green, in his first year with the U.S. Disabled Team, spent the last four years chasing the big, blue jacket with the U.S.A. logo.
“I need to pick up a second and a half,” said Green, who competed without the use of his left leg, after the first run. “There’s no jumping on the Ralph bandwagon yet. I’ve got to go kick some ass, first.”
Green’s one of four new members to the U.S. Team, which leaves in January for competitions in France and Austria, before preparing for the U.S. Championships in March.
Nineteen-year-old Csilla Kristof of Vail won the women’s overall, with Vail’s Allison Jones, a two-time Paralympic silver medalist, in second.
Kristof, born without a left forearm, won three silver medals at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City.
Laurie Stephens, in her first race as a U.S. Disabled Team member, placed third in the overall and first in the monoski (wheel chair ski) division.
Vail’s Sandy Dukot, a two-time bronze medalist, finished fourth overall.
“It’s our first race together,” said Dukot, a three-year veteran of the team. “We’re getting the kinks worked out.”
Longtime U.S. disabled team member dominated the men’s overall, and would have placed eighth among the able-bodied racers. Vail’s Michael Milton finished second.
“I thought everything today went incredibly well,” U.S. Disabled Team head coach Kevin Jardine said. “We had a couple difficult days of training and a good day of racing today.”
But it wasn’t just about the United States. Sweden’s Ronny Persson trains in Winter Park and returned to his monoski Friday after a summer spent healing from a broken shoulder.
“It’s a good, medium-tough race,” Persson said. “The course is kind of flat, but the competition is pretty solid. It’s not a World Cup race, for sure, but you need to get dialed in.”
The ski spectacular continues today with the Corporate Challenge Team race at 10 a.m. at Breckenridge. The event has been organized by Disabled Sports U.S.A. and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
“This is where we go out and give our sponsors a big thanks,” U.S. coach John Cole said. “This is what gives disabled skiing a chance in the United States. Without them, we wouldn’t have money to put on these events.”
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.