Aspen Athletes Shine at 2018 Paralympic Games
The action in Pyeonchang, South Korea, was far from over after last month's Olympians packed up their gold medals and headed back to their respective countries. The 2018 Paralympics, which wrapped up Sunday, March 18, drew a record 567 winter athletes from 48 countries, including a dozen skiers and snowboarders affiliated with our very own Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC) Adaptive Program. Out of the 12, six took home medals.
In men's skiing, Andrew Kurka, 26, won a gold medal in the downhill and a silver in super-G. Kurka went to the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, but broke his back on his first practice run. He said winning two medals this time means so much more because of his previous experience. Kurka has spinal cord injuries caused by a four-wheel motor bike accident he was in at age 13.
Tyler Walker, 31, won two silver medals in slalom and giant slalom. The New Hampshire native is in the same sports class as Kurka, with limb deficiencies and spinal cord injuries he's had since birth. This was his third Paralympic Games.
Jamie Stanton, 23, won bronze in slalom. This was his second Paralympics. His right leg was amputated below the knee when he was six months old.
In women's skiing, Laurie Stephens, 34, won bronze in the downhill. She's from Wenham, Massachusetts, and has been skiing since age 12. Stephens has had spinal cord injuries since birth.
In men's snowboarding, Evan Strong, 31, won a silver medal in banked slalom. Strong, who is from San Francisco, had his left leg amputated when he was 17 after a car accident. This was his second time competing in the Paralympic Games.
Keith Gabel, 33, took home a silver medal in snowboardcross. The Salt Lake City native had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2005 after an industrial accident. This was his second time at the Paralympics.
The other six competitors connected with Aspen and AVSC brought on the heat in several other alpine skiing and snowboarding races. Skiers included 36-year-old Josh Elliot, 23-year-old Thomas Walsh, 27-year-old Stephen Lawler, 35-year-old Kevin Butron, and 32-year-old Melanie Schwartz. Snowboarders included 34-year-old Mike Shea.
In total, the US won 36 medals, the most at the 2018 Paralympic Games. Second in the medal total was the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (aka athletes from Russia), with 24 medals, and third was Canada, with 28 medals.