Vail’s Thomas Walsh places fourth and 15th in first two events at Beijing Paralympics
Two-time paralympian is a medal threat in all standing Alpine events
The curse of the wooden spoon (fourth place for those not up to snuff on their Olympic lingo) continued for Vail athletes in Beijing as the Paralympics reaches the halfway point this week. River Radamus placed fourth twice at the Games in February and now another Vail athlete, para Alpine skier Thomas Walsh has duplicated the feat, placing fourth in the men’s super combined standing para Alpine event on Monday at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in China.
“Four years ago in combined in (PyeongChang), Korea, I straddled the first gate of the slalom section,” Walsh told Jen Allred of Team USA.org. “Today, I came in fourth. A few years in between, but steps in the right direction.”
Walsh’s combined time of 1:54.88 was just 0.11 seconds behind third-place finisher Adam Hall of New Zealand. Santeri Kilveri of Finland won the silver while Arthur Bauchet took the gold, finishing out in front by over four seconds with a combined time of 1:50.26.
Walsh was eighth after the super-G, but found speed in the slalom to finish in fourth.
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“While I could be disappointed with being so close to the podium, given my recent circumstances dealing with COVID, no training, and JUST arriving to a time zone on the opposite side of the globe, I am going to take today as a personal win,” he continued.
“Now it is time for some much needed rest and I know I’ll bring this momentum into the technical events of GS and SL.”
After struggling to produce a negative COVID test as Team USA’s pre-Games training camp got underway in Sun Valley in February, an event he missed, Walsh arrived in Beijing just a day before his first event, the super-G standing on Sunday. The two-time para skiing World Championship medalist and slalom crystal globe winner placed 15th.
Walsh competes as an Lw4 classification. On May 29, 2009, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or soft tissue surrounding them. He spent the next 14 months fighting for his life, undergoing chemotherapy and having some pelvic bones and wedges of his lungs removed. The late Jeff Shiffrin was one of his anaesthetists.
“He was a very pivotal part in my treatment and ability to survive,” Walsh said to Team USA of Mikaela Shiffrin’s father. “He was in the surgical room during probably my biggest operation. He really took extra time to make sure that I was OK, and getting the care and treatment that I needed.”
When he passed away unexpectedly in February of 2020, Walsh was there to support Mikaela, a close friend who had been there for him during his low points. The friendship between the two Vail skiing superstars has continued.
“We’re both on the road in separate places, in different time zones, in different countries and continents,” Walsh told Team USA. “But, because I love skiing, and I know she loves skiing, we’re always watching each other’s results and supporting each other and sending each other positive messages.”