Anzere/Crans Montana, Switzerland, Jan. 28--The 2000 World DisabledChampionships opened Friday under a brilliant blue sky and U.S. skierscaptured seven medals, including three golds. Alpine skiers in Anzerewon four medals in downhill, including victories by "Team Sarah" - SarahWill (Vail, CO) and Sarah Billmeier (Yarmouth, ME), while cross countryskiers added two, including a gold medal by Steve Cook (Salt Lake City).
The alpine championships are being held in Anzere while the nordicraces are one ridgeline over in Crans Montana. Racing continues untilFeb. 5.
With alpine racing divided into individual classes (with a minimum ofsix women and eight men needed for a category to stand alone), theracing was held in blind, mono-skiers, one-legged (i.e., LW-2 Class) andupright skiers. Will won the mono-skier title
"It was an okay day - beautiful blue sky, rock-hard conditions and agreat course, and four medals is a good start. But we can do better, andthe athletes know it," said U.S. alpine Head Coach Ewald Zirbisegger."We're pleased with two golds, a silver and a bronze. Other countrieswould like to have them, of course, but I had a better feeling fortoday.
"Still, we saw some good skiing," he said. "In particular, Sarah BBillmeier was incredible; they flagged her off the course because theskier in front of her fell. So, she had to spend about 10 minutes hikingback up the hill - on one leg - to the middle station and then she tookthe gondola back to the top, and to the start. And then she beateveryone by more than a full second! Good for her."
The other alpine medals went to Will (two golds and a silver at the '96Worlds in Austria) in the mono-skier category; to Chris Waddell (Granby,MA; GS/SL gold in '96), who took silver in the men's mono-ski category(LW-10, -11, -12); and to Csilla Kristof (Las Vegas), who earned thebronze medal in the combined upright category (LW-3, -4, 5/7, 6/8 and9).
In the 10-km classic technique cross country races on a golf course inCrans Montana, Cook started at the back of the pack and used continualtimings splits to keep him informed as he motored to victory in themen's upright category with an adjusted time of 30:39.2. Mike Crenshaw(Boulder, CO) was fourth, 1.1 seconds away from a medal.
Women sit-skiers raced a 5-km loop and Candace Cable (Truckee, CA), whocollected two bronze medals at the 1996 championships in Sweden, was thesilver medalist.
Cook, who works at a bicycle shop (Wild Rose) in Salt Lake City whenhe's not training and racing, said he was nervous before the race gotunderway but everything worked out fine. "It was a good day and I wasable to ski well," he said. "I was the last one out of the gate and Igot good splits all along, and I skied hard...
"Even a hilly golf course doesn't have much climb. This is pretty flat,so this course keeps coming at you; there wasn't much rest..."
Zirbisegger said the weather forecast for Saturday - when the alpinemen are scheduled to race super G - calls for about six inches of snow,which could create tricky conditions. The women are to race SG Sunday.In nordic, cross country is off until Monday; however, according to HeadCoach John Kreamelmeyer, some of his skiers will train biathlon (skiingplus air rifle marksmanship) Saturday and decide whether to competeSunday.