U.S. names 2008 Disabled Ski Team | VailDaily.com

U.S. names 2008 Disabled Ski Team

Daily Staff Report
Vail, CO Colorado

PARK CITY, Utah ” Stephani Victor (sit-ski; Park City, Utah), Laurie Stephens (sit-ski; Wenham, Mass.) and Chris Klebl (sit-ski; Heber City, Utah) headline a group of 15 Paralympians named to the 2008 U.S. Disabled Ski Team by Program Director Sandy Metzger. The Team accounted for 12 victories and 18 other World Cup podiums last winter.

“We have so many solid athletes returning this season like Victor, Stephens, and Klebl,” said Metzger. “It’s encouraging to see such a talented pack of athletes. No doubt we’ll be challenging at every level again this season.”

Victor heads into the 2007-08 season optimistic after dominating last year, capturing the World Cup overall, slalom and giant slalom titles. The 2006 Paralympic slalom gold medalist and reigning world champion also stormed to wins at The Huntsman Cup and Winter Park Open, and also captured both the slalom and giant slalom U.S. championships.

Stephens, who captured all four World Cup globes in ’05 and three in ’06, returns after claiming the World Cup super G title last winter.

“Our expectations are to be winning at every level – Nor-Am and the World Cup,” said Disabled Alpine Head Coach Ray Watkins. “Our team is not satisfied with top 10’s. The goal is simple. It is all about taking podiums, winning medals and being the top team in the world.”

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On the cross country side, Klebl is back for his third season after producing eight World Cup podiums in ’07 to finish second in the overall standings. A relative newcomer, Klebl was introduced to the sport following a 1995 snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The newest face on the cross country squad is Andy Soule (sit-ski; Sun Valley, Idaho), who finished fourth in his first World Cup last season. A military veteran, Soule lost both legs in Afghanistan and experienced skiing for the first time in 2005. He learned about skiing from the Team’s recruiting program that, by looking to veterans, reaches outside the traditional ski development pathway. According to Metzger, the Team development pipeline is about connecting with disabled athletes who may not realize ski racing is an accessible option.

“The bottom line is that everyone is going to have to work harder this season,” added Disabled Cross Country Head Coach Jon Kreamelmeyer. “We’ve slimmed our roster in order to focus on high performance. Chris Klebl has personally stepped up his training this summer and Andy Soule is a great young talent. He’s certainly got the motor and the right mindset.”

“Our coaches have made very important partnerships at the recruiting and development level so we’re starting to see competitive talent like Soule begin to emerge,” Metzger said.

Retiring from the alpine squad after a seven-year career that saw multiple Paralympic and World Championships medals is Sandy Dukat (standup; Vail). Three-time Paralympian and double gold medalist Steve Cook (standup; Salt Lake City), a former World Cup champion and World Championships gold medalist, steps down from the cross country team.

Kreamelmeyer, who has been the cross country head coach for three Paralympics, will lead the squad for a 10th year and Watkins begins his second season as alpine head coach.

Competition for both Teams opens Dec. 3-7 with the annual Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge. The alpine World Cup season kicks off Jan. 7-11 in Abtenau, Austria. The cross country tour starts Jan. 17-22 at Isny, Germany.

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